As prosecutors neared the end of presenting their case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the federal court in Virginia gave its watchers a true cliffhanger.
Here are three takeaways from the day in court Friday:
1. The big mystery
Five hours of waiting. That’s what the public experienced for much of the Manafort trial on Friday.
Something seemed off since the moment the court convened around 9:30 Friday morning. Manafort came in smiling after Judge T.S. Ellis called the court to order, and then his lawyers hustled through a series of intense and hushed conversations with the judge, prosecutors and a court security officer. Not a word of theirs could be heard.
Was a plea or a mistrial being discussed? Could it be an issue with the jury or a witness? This was not a normal side discussion, as has happened throughout this trial. And the answer is still unknown.
After the court took an “early lunch” for about three hours, the courtroom filled again with spectators, the lawyers and abundant nervous energy.
Ellis broke the silence at about 2:20 p.m.
“Mr. Andres, you may call your next witness,” he told the prosecutor, Greg Andres, who then reminded him they still needed to bring the jury in first.
Nearly everyone present laughed.
Ellis offered few hints as to the reason for the delay. He reminded the 16 jurors not to discuss the case with anyone, even one another, and he told them to keep open minds until all evidence was presented.
At the end of the day’s proceedings, Manafort’s attorneys carried out with him a grocery bag of fresh dress shirts – presumably for court next week – then the long wait until Monday began.
2. Here come the Yankees
The testimony the jury did hear late Friday outlined how Manafort had sought an $18 million loan from a Chicago-based bank, the Federal Savings Bank, in 2016, a time he had significant debt yet even greater power.
He ultimately got $16 million from the bank, after sending fake income statements and talking politics with the bank’s founder, according to previous witnesses and Dennis Raico, a loan officer who testified Friday. The bank’s founder, Stephen Calk, thought he could be secretary of the treasury or of housing and urban development if he worked his Manafort connection, Raico said, and Calk’s bank approved the loans to the Trump campaign chairman in record time.
The day came to a close with testimony from yet another banker and from the director of ticketing operations for the New York Yankees. The Yankees received an email from Manafort about his use of his – and his alone – Legends Suite seats, and prosecutors also produced another email that showed Manafort had paid for them from an unregistered foreign bank account that’s been central to several criminal charges in the trial.
Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates wasn’t involved, and the testimony appeared to underscore much of the prosecution’s narrative that Manafort allegedly had masterminded fraudulent schemes to sustain his life of luxuries and excess.
Defense attorneys have encouraged the jury to think that Gates perpetrated the foreign banking and fraud schemes, while embezzling from Manafort and hiding a secret life. He testified over three days earlier this week.
3. What’s next
Monday at 1 p.m., the court is set to reconvene. Will we learn the secrets of the in-court discussions by then? Will an explanation come from Ellis in person? How will the last scheduled witness, James Brennan of the Federal Savings Bank, button up the prosecutors’ case? What will the defense team plan to present for its side of the case, if anything at all?
The answers, at least some of them, are not yet evident.