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Key Midwestern US States Pick Candidates for November Election

The races for U.S. political offices became further defined Tuesday with the latest round of primary elections setting up congressional battles in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In Wisconsin, Republicans chose state lawmaker Leah Vukmir to go up against Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is trying to earn a second term in office.

Vukmir has the support of President Donald Trump, who just ahead of Tuesday’s primaries also voiced approval for Governor Scott Walker in his re-election campaign. Democrat Tony Evers won the Democratic primary to face Walker in November.

Republican voters chose Bryan Steil, a former aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, as their candidate to replace Ryan when he retires at the end of the current term. Steil will face Democratic candidate Randy Bryce to represent the congressional district in a suburb of Milwaukee.

Democrats seem to be particularly energized in Wisconsin, where Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win in 32 years, although by one percentage point, in the 2016 elections.

In the November election, all 435 House of Representatives seats, 35 of 100 Senate seats, and 36 of 50 governors’ offices will be up for election. Democrats must win 23 seats in the House and two seats in the Senate to gain control of those chambers.

In Minnesota, former Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has been critical of Trump, saw his campaign to reclaim his old job end Tuesday as the one-time favorite in the race lost the Republican primary to county commissioner Jeff Johnson. Democrats chose Congressman Tim Walz as their candidate for governor.

Rep. Keith Ellison won the Democratic nomination for Minnesota’s attorney general on Tuesday after his campaign was rocked by recent allegations of domestic violence.

Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress, and in the race to fill the seat he is vacating Democrats picked state representative Ilhan Omar, the nation’s first Somali-American legislator as their candidate. She will go up against Republican Jennifer Zielinski for a seat Democrats have held since 1960.

Senator Tina Smith won the Democratic primary to seek her first full term after taking office to replace fellow Democrat Al Franked who resigned in December amid multiple allegations of unwanted sexual touching. Smith will face Republican state senator Karin Housley.

Primary contests were also held in the heavily Democratic northeastern states of Vermont and Connecticut.

Democrats selected Christine Hallquist as their nominee for governor in Vermont as he tries to become the nation’s first transgender governor. She will face Republican incumbent Phil Scott, who has strong support in his re-election bid.

And Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ran for president in 2016, won the Democratic primary for his seat, but is expected to turn down that nomination and continue as an independent.

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Key Midwestern US States Pick Candidates for November Election

The races for U.S. political offices became further defined Tuesday with the latest round of primary elections setting up congressional battles in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In Wisconsin, Republicans chose state lawmaker Leah Vukmir to go up against Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is trying to earn a second term in office.

Vukmir has the support of President Donald Trump, who just ahead of Tuesday’s primaries also voiced approval for Governor Scott Walker in his re-election campaign. Democrat Tony Evers won the Democratic primary to face Walker in November.

Republican voters chose Bryan Steil, a former aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, as their candidate to replace Ryan when he retires at the end of the current term. Steil will face Democratic candidate Randy Bryce to represent the congressional district in a suburb of Milwaukee.

Democrats seem to be particularly energized in Wisconsin, where Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win in 32 years, although by one percentage point, in the 2016 elections.

In the November election, all 435 House of Representatives seats, 35 of 100 Senate seats, and 36 of 50 governors’ offices will be up for election. Democrats must win 23 seats in the House and two seats in the Senate to gain control of those chambers.

In Minnesota, former Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has been critical of Trump, saw his campaign to reclaim his old job end Tuesday as the one-time favorite in the race lost the Republican primary to county commissioner Jeff Johnson. Democrats chose Congressman Tim Walz as their candidate for governor.

Rep. Keith Ellison won the Democratic nomination for Minnesota’s attorney general on Tuesday after his campaign was rocked by recent allegations of domestic violence.

Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress, and in the race to fill the seat he is vacating Democrats picked state representative Ilhan Omar, the nation’s first Somali-American legislator as their candidate. She will go up against Republican Jennifer Zielinski for a seat Democrats have held since 1960.

Senator Tina Smith won the Democratic primary to seek her first full term after taking office to replace fellow Democrat Al Franked who resigned in December amid multiple allegations of unwanted sexual touching. Smith will face Republican state senator Karin Housley.

Primary contests were also held in the heavily Democratic northeastern states of Vermont and Connecticut.

Democrats selected Christine Hallquist as their nominee for governor in Vermont as he tries to become the nation’s first transgender governor. She will face Republican incumbent Phil Scott, who has strong support in his re-election bid.

And Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ran for president in 2016, won the Democratic primary for his seat, but is expected to turn down that nomination and continue as an independent.

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Democratic West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Resigns Hours After Impeachment

A Democratic Supreme Court justice in the U.S. state of West Virginia said hours after she was impeached Tuesday that she was retiring, triggering a special election for her replacement and denying the Republican governor a chance to name her successor.

The citizens of West Virginia now “will be afforded their constitutional right to elect my successor in November,” Justice Robin Davis said as she announced her departure at the state capital.

Davis announced her resignation after being impeached for committing wrongful acts, including spending $500,000 on office renovations.

The House of Delegates voted Monday to impeach all four remaining justices over spending issues. They will be brought to trial in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, as is the House.

Davis said their impeachment was a travesty of justice and a brazen attempt by one branch of government to seize control over another.

Justice Menis Ketchum retired earlier this year. Any of the three remaining justices who are considering resigning must do so by the Tuesday deadline in order for their replacements to be decided in a November special election. Gov. Jim Justice will appoint replacements who will serve until the election.

All four justices were impeached for failing to control expenses and for not maintaining policies over matters involving state vehicles, working lunches and the use of office computers at home.

 

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Democratic West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Resigns Hours After Impeachment

A Democratic Supreme Court justice in the U.S. state of West Virginia said hours after she was impeached Tuesday that she was retiring, triggering a special election for her replacement and denying the Republican governor a chance to name her successor.

The citizens of West Virginia now “will be afforded their constitutional right to elect my successor in November,” Justice Robin Davis said as she announced her departure at the state capital.

Davis announced her resignation after being impeached for committing wrongful acts, including spending $500,000 on office renovations.

The House of Delegates voted Monday to impeach all four remaining justices over spending issues. They will be brought to trial in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, as is the House.

Davis said their impeachment was a travesty of justice and a brazen attempt by one branch of government to seize control over another.

Justice Menis Ketchum retired earlier this year. Any of the three remaining justices who are considering resigning must do so by the Tuesday deadline in order for their replacements to be decided in a November special election. Gov. Jim Justice will appoint replacements who will serve until the election.

All four justices were impeached for failing to control expenses and for not maintaining policies over matters involving state vehicles, working lunches and the use of office computers at home.

 

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Trump Blames Attorney General, Fired FBI Agent for Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed new attacks Tuesday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, blaming them for the investigation of Russian links to his 2016 U.S. presidential campaign that has consumed his presidency.

The U.S. leader said on Twitter, “If we had a real Attorney General, this Witch Hunt would never have been started! Looking at the wrong people.”

Trump’s attack on the country’s top law enforcement official came days after he described Sessions as “scared stiff” and “missing in action.”

Trump has long been critical of Sessions but has stopped short of firing Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into whether Trump associates conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, and whether Trump, as president, has obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

Under Justice Department rules, Sessions was required to remove himself from overseeing Mueller’s operation because of conflicts of interest, Sessions’ own 2016 contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington and his staunch support of Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Trump also assailed Strzok, who was a key investigator in Mueller’s probe until Mueller removed him when text messages Strzok wrote disparaging Trump were uncovered. The FBI fired him last week, although an earlier Justice Department inspector general’s report had concluded there was no evidence that Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the woman with whom he was corresponding, acted on their anti-Trump views to try to stop Trump’s election.

Trump tweeted, “Fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok is a fraud, as is the rigged investigation he started. There was no Collusion or Obstruction with Russia, and everybody, including the Democrats, know it.”

Trump claimed, without elaboration, “The only Collusion and Obstruction was by Crooked Hillary, the Democrats and the DNC!” using his favorite pejorative for his 2016 challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

He added, “Strzok started the illegal Rigged Witch Hunt – why isn’t this so-called ‘probe’ ended immediately? Why aren’t these angry and conflicted Democrats instead looking at Crooked Hillary?”

On Monday, Trump praised Strzok’s dismissal from the FBI after a 22-year career, tweeting, “Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally.”

Last month, Strzok told a House of Representatives hearing that the anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with Page reflected his personal opinions and that he had never let his beliefs interfere with his work for the FBI.

In the key exchange between Strzok and Page, she texted him that Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Mueller’s investigation is now in its 15th month.

He has secured guilty pleas from several Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and ex-foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos, both of whom pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about their contacts with Russia.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is currently on trial for bank and tax fraud in connection with his lobbying efforts for Ukraine that predated his work on Trump’s campaign.

 

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Trump Blames Attorney General, Fired FBI Agent for Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed new attacks Tuesday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, blaming them for the investigation of Russian links to his 2016 U.S. presidential campaign that has consumed his presidency.

The U.S. leader said on Twitter, “If we had a real Attorney General, this Witch Hunt would never have been started! Looking at the wrong people.”

Trump’s attack on the country’s top law enforcement official came days after he described Sessions as “scared stiff” and “missing in action.”

Trump has long been critical of Sessions but has stopped short of firing Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into whether Trump associates conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, and whether Trump, as president, has obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

Under Justice Department rules, Sessions was required to remove himself from overseeing Mueller’s operation because of conflicts of interest, Sessions’ own 2016 contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington and his staunch support of Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Trump also assailed Strzok, who was a key investigator in Mueller’s probe until Mueller removed him when text messages Strzok wrote disparaging Trump were uncovered. The FBI fired him last week, although an earlier Justice Department inspector general’s report had concluded there was no evidence that Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the woman with whom he was corresponding, acted on their anti-Trump views to try to stop Trump’s election.

Trump tweeted, “Fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok is a fraud, as is the rigged investigation he started. There was no Collusion or Obstruction with Russia, and everybody, including the Democrats, know it.”

Trump claimed, without elaboration, “The only Collusion and Obstruction was by Crooked Hillary, the Democrats and the DNC!” using his favorite pejorative for his 2016 challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

He added, “Strzok started the illegal Rigged Witch Hunt – why isn’t this so-called ‘probe’ ended immediately? Why aren’t these angry and conflicted Democrats instead looking at Crooked Hillary?”

On Monday, Trump praised Strzok’s dismissal from the FBI after a 22-year career, tweeting, “Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally.”

Last month, Strzok told a House of Representatives hearing that the anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with Page reflected his personal opinions and that he had never let his beliefs interfere with his work for the FBI.

In the key exchange between Strzok and Page, she texted him that Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Mueller’s investigation is now in its 15th month.

He has secured guilty pleas from several Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and ex-foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos, both of whom pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about their contacts with Russia.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is currently on trial for bank and tax fraud in connection with his lobbying efforts for Ukraine that predated his work on Trump’s campaign.

 

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Trump Calls Ex-aide a ‘Dog’ Who Deserved to Be Fired

U.S. President Donald Trump resumed his attacks Tuesday on a former adviser, Omarosa Manigault Newman, calling her a “dog” who deserved to be fired.

In a Twitter comment, the U.S. leader praised his chief of staff, John Kelly, for dismissing her late last year. She was a long-time contestant on Trump’s one-time reality television show, “The Apprentice,” before Trump named her to a $179,700-a-year White House position, noting that she “only said GREAT things about me.”

“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out,” Trump tweeted. “Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign filed for arbitration against Manigault Newman, claiming she violated a non-disclosure agreement she signed by writing a new book, “Unhinged,” that is highly critical of Trump and his White House operations.  It was published Tuesday.

While promoting her book, Manigault Newman, who was the highest-ranking African-American serving in the White House, has released audio tapes the last two days she recorded in the White House, one of Kelly firing her and a second of Trump seeming surprised that she had been ousted.

Trump’s newest attack on her came a day after he described her as “Wacky Omarosa” and said she “was vicious, but not smart.”

“Wacky Omarosa, who got fired 3 times on the Apprentice, now got fired for the last time,” Trump tweeted Monday. “She never made it, never will. She begged me for a job, tears in her eyes, I said Ok. People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart. I would rarely see her but heard really bad things. Nasty to people & would constantly miss meetings & work. When Gen. Kelly came on board he told me she was a loser & nothing but problems. I told him to try working it out, if possible, because she only said GREAT things about me – until she got fired!…”

Later, he half-apologized for his comments about her.

“While I know it’s ‘not presidential’ to take on a lowlife like Omarosa,” he said, “and while I would rather not be doing so, this is a modern day form of communication and I know the Fake News Media will be working overtime to make even Wacky Omarosa look legitimate as possible. Sorry!”

Trump’s Monday tweets about Manigault Newman came a couple hours after she played an audio recording of a conversation she had with Trump seeming to show that the president was surprised that Kelly had fired her last December.

“Omarosa, what’s going on?” Trump said on the brief recording aired on NBC’s “Today” show. Manigault Newman said the phone call occurred the day after Kelly ousted her. “I just saw on the news that you’re thinking about leaving. What happened?” Trump said.

“General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave,” Manigault Newman replied.

But Trump said, “No. Nobody even told me about it. You know, they run a big operation, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that. (expletive).”

“I don’t love you leaving at all,” he added, while not doing anything to block her dismissal.

On Sunday, Manigault Newman released a recording of Kelly firing her in the Situation Room, the supposedly secure inner sanctum of the White House where U.S. presidents discuss crucial national security issues and aides are supposed to leave electronic devices outside.

As he fired her, according to the recording, Kelly told Manigault Newman, “I think it’s important to understand that if we make this a friendly departure, we can all be, you know, you can look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation. And then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future, relative to your reputation.”

Manigault Newman claims that she was offered a $15,000-a-month retainer as she left the White House to not criticize Trump or Vice President Mike Pence and their wives, but that she turned it down. She says she has other tapes she secretly made at the White House.

Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Sunday, “The very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room shows a blatant disregard for our national security — and then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee.”

The Republican Party tweeted: “Omarosa is … ‘Unbelievable.’ ‘Not credible.’ ‘Unethical.’”

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Trump Calls Ex-aide a ‘Dog’ Who Deserved to Be Fired

U.S. President Donald Trump resumed his attacks Tuesday on a former adviser, Omarosa Manigault Newman, calling her a “dog” who deserved to be fired.

In a Twitter comment, the U.S. leader praised his chief of staff, John Kelly, for dismissing her late last year. She was a long-time contestant on Trump’s one-time reality television show, “The Apprentice,” before Trump named her to a $179,700-a-year White House position, noting that she “only said GREAT things about me.”

“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out,” Trump tweeted. “Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign filed for arbitration against Manigault Newman, claiming she violated a non-disclosure agreement she signed by writing a new book, “Unhinged,” that is highly critical of Trump and his White House operations.  It was published Tuesday.

While promoting her book, Manigault Newman, who was the highest-ranking African-American serving in the White House, has released audio tapes the last two days she recorded in the White House, one of Kelly firing her and a second of Trump seeming surprised that she had been ousted.

Trump’s newest attack on her came a day after he described her as “Wacky Omarosa” and said she “was vicious, but not smart.”

“Wacky Omarosa, who got fired 3 times on the Apprentice, now got fired for the last time,” Trump tweeted Monday. “She never made it, never will. She begged me for a job, tears in her eyes, I said Ok. People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart. I would rarely see her but heard really bad things. Nasty to people & would constantly miss meetings & work. When Gen. Kelly came on board he told me she was a loser & nothing but problems. I told him to try working it out, if possible, because she only said GREAT things about me – until she got fired!…”

Later, he half-apologized for his comments about her.

“While I know it’s ‘not presidential’ to take on a lowlife like Omarosa,” he said, “and while I would rather not be doing so, this is a modern day form of communication and I know the Fake News Media will be working overtime to make even Wacky Omarosa look legitimate as possible. Sorry!”

Trump’s Monday tweets about Manigault Newman came a couple hours after she played an audio recording of a conversation she had with Trump seeming to show that the president was surprised that Kelly had fired her last December.

“Omarosa, what’s going on?” Trump said on the brief recording aired on NBC’s “Today” show. Manigault Newman said the phone call occurred the day after Kelly ousted her. “I just saw on the news that you’re thinking about leaving. What happened?” Trump said.

“General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave,” Manigault Newman replied.

But Trump said, “No. Nobody even told me about it. You know, they run a big operation, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that. (expletive).”

“I don’t love you leaving at all,” he added, while not doing anything to block her dismissal.

On Sunday, Manigault Newman released a recording of Kelly firing her in the Situation Room, the supposedly secure inner sanctum of the White House where U.S. presidents discuss crucial national security issues and aides are supposed to leave electronic devices outside.

As he fired her, according to the recording, Kelly told Manigault Newman, “I think it’s important to understand that if we make this a friendly departure, we can all be, you know, you can look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation. And then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future, relative to your reputation.”

Manigault Newman claims that she was offered a $15,000-a-month retainer as she left the White House to not criticize Trump or Vice President Mike Pence and their wives, but that she turned it down. She says she has other tapes she secretly made at the White House.

Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Sunday, “The very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room shows a blatant disregard for our national security — and then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee.”

The Republican Party tweeted: “Omarosa is … ‘Unbelievable.’ ‘Not credible.’ ‘Unethical.’”

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Trump Signs Defense Policy Bill with Watered-down China Measures

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a $716 billion defense policy bill on Monday that authorizes military spending and includes watered-down controls on U.S. government contracts with China’s ZTE and Huawei Technologies.

Trump signed the law at the U.S. Army’s Fort Drum base in upstate New York on his way back to Washington after a 12-day working vacation at his golf club in New Jersey. The bill was named for one of Trump’s political critics, the ailing U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, but he did not mention McCain’s name.

McCain said in a statement he was “humbled” the bill was named after him, adding that it will address “a growing array of threats.”

Trump later made a reference to McCain at a political fundraiser in Utica, New York, knocking him – as Trump does repeatedly – for voting against a bill to repeal parts of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform law last year.

Even though Trump said the bill “is the most significant investment in our military and our war-fighters in modern history,” Obama’s first three defense budgets were larger, when adjusted for inflation, according to Todd Harrison at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Weak on China

Some lawmakers wanted to use the bill to reinstate tough sanctions on ZTE to punish the company for illegally shipping products to Iran and North Korea, but the restrictions included in the final National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that passed Congress were weaker than earlier versions of the bill.

Trump has lifted an earlier ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE, allowing China’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker to resume business and putting him at odds with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies have said they are concerned that ZTE, Huawei Technologies and some other Chinese companies are beholden to the Chinese government or Communist Party, raising the risk of espionage.

The White House opposed putting stronger measures against the companies in the bill, and the measures were softened before lawmakers held their final vote.

The NDAA does strengthen the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews proposed foreign investments to weigh whether they threaten national security.

That measure was seen as targeting China.

Separately, the NDAA authorizes spending $7.6 billion for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, made by Lockheed Martin.

The bill also directs the Secretary of Defense to study whether Turkey’s planned deployment of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system will risk the security of several U.S.-made weapons used by Turkey, including the F-35 jet. The mandate to produce a study came after an earlier version proposed to bar the delivery of F-35s to Turkey.

Prior to the ceremony Trump watched an air assault demonstration by U.S. troops at Fort Drum.

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US Rests Case Against Former Trump Aide Manafort

Prosecutors on Monday rested their tax evasion and bank fraud case against Paul Manafort, a longtime Washington operator and President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.

The case now goes to Manafort’s defense team, which is expected to lay the blame for wrongdoing with Rick Gates, the former Manafort protege who says the two committed crimes together. Defense attorneys have called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler as they’ve sought to undermine his testimony.

The trial is the first to emerge from Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, but neither Manafort nor Gates have been charged in connection with their Trump campaign work.

Still, the proceedings have drawn international attention — as well as Trump’s — for what the case reveals about people in the combative president’s orbit as Mueller examines the same circles for any election interference or obstruction.

Trump has distanced himself from Manafort, who was chairman of the campaign from May to August 2016 — with Gates at his side. Gates struck a plea deal with prosecutors and provided much of the drama of the trial so far.

The government says Manafort hid around $16 million in income from the IRS between 2010 and 2014 by disguising money he earned advising politicians in Ukraine as loans and hiding it in foreign banks. Then, after his money in Ukraine dried up, they allege he defrauded banks by lying about his income on loan applications.

Gates said he helped Manafort commit crimes in an effort to protect Manafort’s finances. Defense attorneys called Gates a liar interested in avoiding jail time under a plea deal. Gates was forced to admit embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and an extramarital affair.

The prosecution has introduced a trove of documentary evidence as they’ve sought to prove Manafort defrauded banks and concealed millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts from the IRS. Along the way, they’ve not only faced an aggressive defense team but tongue-lashings from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who presides over the case. The admittedly impatient judge has pushed the government to speed up its case.

Before prosecutor Greg Andres told Ellis the government rested its case on Monday afternoon, the court heard testimony from a bank executive who said he found several red flags with Manafort’s finances while he was being considered for around $16 million in bank loans.

James Brennan, a vice president at Federal Savings Bank, says Manafort failed to disclose mortgages on his loan application. He said he also found several “inconsistencies” in the amount of income Manafort reported for his business.

That information led senior executives to reject one of the loans. But Brennan said Federal Savings Bank chairman Stephen Calk overruled that decision.

“It closed because Mr. Calk wanted it to close,” Brennan said.

Other witnesses have said Calk pushed the loans through because he wanted a plum post in the Trump administration.

Brennan said the Chicago-based bank lost $11.8 million because it had to write off a significant portion of two loans it made to Manafort. He said they were the two largest loans the bank had made when they were issued in late 2016 and early 2017.

On Friday, proceedings were halted for hours by mysterious backstage discussions between the judge and attorneys for both sides. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III recessed the trial without explanation after huddling with his bailiff and attorneys from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and Manafort’s lawyers for more than 20 minutes.

At one point on Friday, 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.

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