The first major test in court for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team continued Friday in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — with an unexplained five-hour delay meaning prosecutors didn’t wrap up their case as planned.
Court was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET, but repeated meetings between Judge T.S. Ellis and lawyers for both sides, at times in private or obscured from the public with white noise, resulted in a delay until after 2 p.m.
Before the lunch break, Ellis brought in the 16 jurors, stressed to them the importance of not discussing the case and told them to “keep an open mind.” He also said the court plans to “continue with evidence” presentations in the afternoon and that he would “expect to make progress.”
When the trial resumed, there was no explanation for the delay. Prosecutors picked up where they had left off, calling two employees of the Federal Savings Bank and a ticket operations manager with the New York Yankees to testify.
Yankees ticket operations manager Irfan Kirimca testified about a multi-year agreement Manafort had with the team to buy four seats for 81 games in a season — for more than $200,000 per year.
In an email to an employee of the Yankees in 2011, Manafort told them to expect a payment of $226,800 for his tickets from one of the dozens of Cypriot accounts he allegedly hid from the government, used to collect his Ukrainian lobbying income and for which he never paid taxes.
Two days later, Kirimca confirmed an email that said the Yankees got a wire payment from Global Highway’s account for $226,800 for Manafort’s tickets. His longtime deputy, Rick Gates, was not involved in the payment, Kirimca said.
Manafort’s case is the first that Mueller’s team has brought to trial, charging Manafort with 18 tax and banking crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Court will resume Monday at 1 p.m. ET.
Before dismissing jurors for the weekend, Ellis emphasized the need for them not to discuss or research the Manafort trial outside of the courtroom.
“Don’t discuss the matter at all,” Ellis said.
“Put it completely out of your mind until Monday. I certainly plan to do that,” he added, to laughter from the courtroom.
SOURCE: Katelyn Polantz, Liz Stark, Daniella Diaz, Sophie Tatum, and Jeremy Herb