A New York bank executive has testified that Paul Manafort received more than $US16 million ($22 million) in loans after the bank’s chairman expressed interest in joining Donald Trump’s cabinet if he won the 2016 presidential election.
The testimony on Friday in the former Trump campaign chairman’s financial fraud trial came after proceedings were halted for hours by mysterious backstage discussions between the judge and lawyers for both sides.
Prosecutors now say they will wrap up their case against Mr Manafort on Monday.
Defence lawyers have not said whether they expect to call any witnesses after that.
It was a strange hiccup in nine days of proceedings that have been sometimes dramatic and featured tense exchanges between prosecutors and admittedly impatient U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III as he has pushed the government to speed up its case.
Judge Ellis recessed the trial without explanation after huddling with his bailiff and attorneys from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and Mr Manafort’s lawyers for more than 20 minutes.
At one point, Judge Ellis left the courtroom and headed toward the jury room.
After bringing court back into session, he reminded jurors several times that they weren’t to discuss the tax evasion and bank fraud case at all.
That included telling them to not even comment on the attire of any witnesses.
The exchange came during a day in which jurors heard detailed testimony about Mr Manafort’s bank loans and about his New York Yankees luxury season ticket purchases – paid for from an offshore account that prosecutors say he concealed from the IRS.
Dennis Raico, an executive at Federal Saving Bank who testified under an immunity agreement, detailed for jurors how he grew uncomfortable by the actions of bank chairman Stephen Calk in the handling of Mr Manafort’s loans.
Prosecutors have said that despite red flags, Mr Calk pushed through the loans for Mr Manafort because he wanted a job in the Trump administration.
During his testimony, Mr Raico told jurors that Mr Calk discussed roles in the Trump campaign ahead of approving the loans and later specifically referenced being a candidate for Secretary of the Treasury or Housing and Urban Development in messages he wanted Mr Raico to pass to Mr Manafort.
Mr Raico said he didn’t relay Mr Calk’s messages because he thought they were inappropriate.
Mr Raico told jurors that a committee that Mr Calk led approved Mr Manafort’s loan within one day.
Mr Raico also said Mr Calk approved one of the loans, worth $US9.5 million ($13 million), after overruling the bank’s president, who had expressed doubts that Mr Manafort had enough income to pay back the debt.
The developments on Friday came after jurors had endured testimony that sometimes ventured into the tedium of bank and tax records.
The prosecution is the first to emerge from Mr Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, but neither Mr Manafort nor Mr Gates has been charged in connection with their Trump campaign work.
The prosecution has called more than 20 witnesses, including Mr Gates, and introduced a trove of documentary evidence as they’ve sought to prove Mr Manafort defrauded banks and concealed millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts from the IRS.