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4,000 troop surge as Trump takes full ownership of Afghanistan war

The military men around Trump begin to formulate foreign policy.

Alex Christoforou

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President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he will not pull out US troops from Afghanistan, instead committing to a “new” strategy aimed at winning the 17 year war.

Trump stated that his “original instinct was to pull out” of Afghanistan, but upon reflection (as the man sitting in the oval office), reassessed his Afghanistan position.

Zerohedge reports that POTUS Trump arrived at three “fundamental conclusions” about America’s core interests in Afghanistan:

U.S. “must seek an honorable and enduring outcome” in which American troops “deserve a plan for victory.”

The consequences of a rapid exit would be “predictable and unacceptable” adding that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11.”

The security threats U.S. faces “are immense”; and “we cannot repeat the mistake in Afghanistan our leaders made in Iraq.”

As The Duran reported earlier in the week, now that Trump has purged his White House of most of the advisors who helped formulate his winning campaign platform, largely focused on a non-interventionist America, the 45th POTUS is at the mercy of military men…who have now effectively baited Trump into taking full ownership of the Afghanistan war. This is now Trump’s war.

Ousting of Bannon as Chief White House Strategist leaves the generals in charge of the government.

Individuals who were close to Donald Trump during his successful election campaign and who largely framed its terms – people like Bannon and Flynn – have been picked off one by one.

Taking their place is a strange coalition of former generals and former businessmen of essentially conventional Republican conservative views, which is cemented around three former generals who between them now have the levers of powers in their hands: General Kelly, the President’s new Chief of Staff, General H.R. McMaster, his National Security Adviser, and General Mattis, the Secretary of Defense.

Zerohedge reports

Trump also promised to the soldiers gathered for the speech that “One way or another, these problems will be solved. I am a problem solver. And in the end, we will win.”

In other words, Trump is unveiling a dramatic, new offensive in Afghanistan, only instead of giving details on troop deployments, specific dates, or what the definition of victory would be, Trump will keep the details of the new involvement secret, and that “conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.


Full transcript of President Trump’s speech (via NPR):

Thank you very much. Thank you. Please be seated. Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary Shanahan and Colonel Duggan. Most especially, thank you to the men and women of Fort Myer and every member of the United States military at home and abroad. We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts.

I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the service members here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts, and to all Americans listening at home. Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history.

American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield – for our nation and for our freedom. Through their lives, and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality. By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal and to remain one nation under God. The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose.

They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They are all part of the same family. It’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag and live according to the same law.

They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other. The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget, that a wound inflicted upon on a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt.

And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate. The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.

As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas, and we will always win, let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name, that when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military, and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of September 11, and nobody can ever forget that, have not been repeated on our shores. But we must acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after September 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history – 17 years. I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.

My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the oval office. In other words, when you are president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win. Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.

As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorists enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for bled to liberate and won were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world. For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states, whose tense relations threat to spiral into conflict, and that could happen.

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.

When I became president, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into. Big and intricate problems. But one way or another, these problems will be solved. I am a problem solver. And in the end, we will win. We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now, the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, an extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal. We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children.

You saw it for yourself. Horrible. As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia, three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology. Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators, and, that’s right, losers. Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear.

We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America. And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us or anywhere in the world, for that matter. But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history.

As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways: A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times, how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military operations.

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will. Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power, diplomatic, economic, and military, toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban and Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices, but Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the same terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy or America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic harbor of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work and work effectively and work quickly. I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our war fighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers, acting in real time with real authority and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. That is why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.

The killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful. As we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field, we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq. Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard. We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror. When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.

Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition. — attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.

Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so. In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.

As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us. Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us. The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed. But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.

We are not asking others to change their way of life but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives. This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.

But strategically-applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace. America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.

However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results.

Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes wide open. In abiding by the oath I took on January 20, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests. In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat.

Terrorists, take heed. America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat. Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military. And this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense. In every generation we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed.

We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for. Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America’s greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at Arlington national cemetery. There is more courage, sacrifice, and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot on the face of this Earth.

Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after September 11, 2001. They volunteered for a simple reason: they loved America and they were determined to protect her. Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives. We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad. We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home, and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.

Our actions and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation.

With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace. We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls and everlasting pride in each and every one of you. Thank you. May God bless our military, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

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US Sanctions Foster Emergence of Multipolar World

US sanctions negatively affect the economies of the targeted countries, but they also push the nations hit by them to move closer to each other.

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Authored by Arkady Savitsky via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Russia, Iran, China, and now Turkey are in the same boat, as all have become the target of US sanctions. But none of those nations has bowed under the pressure. Russia had foreseen the developments in advance and took timely measures to protect itself. The Turkish national currency, the lira, is plummeting now that Washington has introduced sanctions as well as tariffs on steel and aluminum, in an attempt to compel Ankara to turn over a detained American pastor. Turkish President Erdogan said it was time for Turkey to seek “new friends,” and Turkey is planning to issue yuan-denominated bonds to diversify its foreign borrowing instruments. On Aug. 11, President Erdogan said Turkey was ready to begin using local currencies in its trade with Russia, China, Iran, Ukraine, and the EU nations of the eurozone.

The recent BRICS summit reaffirmed Ankara’s commitment to the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) that is geared toward de-dollarizing its member states’ economies, and the agreement to quickly launch a Local Currency Bond Fund gives that policy teeth. Turkey has also expressed its desire to join BRICS.

Ankara is gradually moving toward membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It has been accepted as a dialog partner of that organization. Last year Turkey became a dialog partner with ASEAN. On Aug. 1, the first ASEAN-Turkey Trilateral Ministerial Meeting was held in Singapore, bringing together Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt ÇavuşoğluASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi, and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who is serving as the 2018 ASEAN term chairman. The event took place under the auspices of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that attracted foreign ministers and top diplomats from 30 countries.

Ankara is mulling over a free-trade area (FTA) agreement with the Eurasian Union. This cooperation between Ankara and the EAEU has a promising future.

Meanwhile, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has provided a $3.6-billion loan package for the Turkish energy and transportation sector. Turkey and China have recently announced an expansion of their military ties. As one can see, Turkey is inexorably pivoting from the West to the East.

Russia has a special role to play in this process. The US Congress has prohibited the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey because of the risk associated with Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 air-defense system. In response, Turkey is contemplating a purchase of Russian warplanes. Ankara prefers Russian weapons over the ones offered by NATO states. As President Erdogan put it, “Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives.”

On Aug. 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan discussed the prospects for boosting economic cooperation. Both nations are parties to the ambitious Turkish Stream natural-gas pipeline project. Ideas for ways to join forces in response to the US offensive were also on the agenda during the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Turkey, Aug. 13-14, although Syria was in the spotlight of the talks. One mustn’t forget that Russia was the first country to be visited by the Turkish president after the failed 2016 coup.

As a result of some tough times resulting from US sanctions, Iran is redoubling its efforts at building foreign relationships. Under US pressure, European companies are leaving Iran, with China gradually filling the void. Now that US and European airspace companies are moving their business ventures out of Iran, this presents a good opportunity for Russian aircraft, such as the MS-21 or IL-96-400M. The Russian automaker GAZ Group is ready to supply Iran with commercial vehicles and light trucks powered by 5th generation engines.

Tehran is an observer state in the SCO, and it is to become an essential hub for the Chinese Belt Road Initiative (BRI). On June 25, a freight train arrived in the Iranian city of Bandar-e Anzali, a port on the Caspian Sea, having passed through the China-Kazakhstan-Iran transportation corridor and entering the Anzali Free Zone that connects China to both the Kazakh port of Aktau and to Iran, thus creating a new trade link to the outside world. This gives a boost to the BRI. On Aug. 12, the five littoral states (the Caspian Five) signed the Caspian Sea Convention — the fruit of 22 years of difficult negotiations. This opens up new opportunities for Iran and other countries of the region as well as the BRI. The idea to form a new economic forum was floated at the Caspian Five summit.

China and Russia back the idea of Iran’s full-fledged SCO membership. In May Tehran signed an interim FTA agreement with the EAEU. Greater EAEU-BRI integration under the stewardship of the SCO is also on the horizon.

According to the Daily Express, Iran could band together with Russia and China in an anti-US alliance. Iran may also get an observer status in the CSTO. Iran-Turkey trade has recently revived, and that bilateral relationship includes burgeoning military cooperation.

Nothing can be viewed in just black and white, and every coin has two sides. The US sanctions do negatively affect the economies and finances of the targeted countries, but in the long run, they will also push the nations hit by them to move closer to each other, thus encouraging the emergence of the multipolar world the US is trying so hard to resist.

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It’s Official: ‘Britain’s Democracy Now At Risk’

It’s not just campaigners saying it any more: democracy is officially at risk, according to parliament’s own digital, culture, media and sport committee.

The Duran

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Via True Publica, authored by Jessica Garland – Electoral Reform Society:


Britain’s main campaign rules were drawn up in the late 1990s, before social media and online campaigning really existed. This has left the door wide open to disinformation, dodgy donations and foreign interference in elections.

There is a real need to close the loopholes when it comes to the online Wild West.

Yet in this year’s elections, it was legitimate voters who were asked to identify themselves, not those funnelling millions into political campaigns through trusts, or those spreading fake news.

The government trialled mandatory voter ID in five council areas in May. In these five pilot areas alone about 350 people were turned away from polling stations for not having their papers with them — and they didn’t return. In other words, they were denied their vote.

Yet last year, out of more than 45 million votes cast across the country, there were just 28 allegations of personation (pretending to be someone else at the polling station), the type of fraud voter ID is meant to tackle.

Despite the loss of 350 votes, the pilots were branded a success by the government. Yet the 28 allegations of fraud (and just one conviction) are considered such a dire threat that the government is willing to risk disenfranchising many more legitimate voters to try to address it. The numbers simply don’t add up.

Indeed, the fact-checking website FullFact noted that in the Gosport pilot, 0.4 per cent of voters did not vote because of ID issues. That’s a greater percentage than the winning margin in at least 14 constituencies in the last election. Putting up barriers to democratic engagement can have a big impact. In fact, it can swing an election.

In the run-up to the pilots, the Electoral Reform Society and other campaigners warned that the policy risked disenfranchising the most marginalised groups in society.

The Windrush scandal highlights exactly the sort of problems that introducing stricter forms of identity could cause: millions of people lack the required documentation. It’s one of the reasons why organisations such as the Runnymede Trust are concerned about these plans.

The Electoral Commission has now published a report on the ID trials, which concludes that “there is not yet enough evidence to fully address concerns” on this front.

The small number of pilots, and a lack of diversity, meant that sample sizes were too small to conclude anything about how the scheme would affect various demographic groups. Nor can the pilots tell us about the likely impact of voter ID in a general election, where the strain on polling staff would be far greater and a much broader cross-section of electors turns out to vote.

The Electoral Reform Society, alongside 22 organisations, campaigners and academics, has now called on the constitution minister to halt moves to impose this policy. The signatories span a huge cross-section of society, including representatives of groups that could be disproportionately impacted by voter ID, from Age UK to Liberty and from the British Youth Council to the Salvation Army and the LGBT Foundation.

Voters know what our democratic priorities should be: ensuring that elections are free from the influence of big donors. Having a secure electoral register. Providing balanced media coverage. Transparency online.

We may be little wiser as a result of the government’s voter ID trials. Yet we do know where the real dangers lie in our politics.

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Corrupt Robert Mueller’s despicable Paul Manafort trial nears end (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 79.

Alex Christoforou

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Paul Manafort’s legal team rested its case on Tuesday without calling a single witness. This sets the stage for closing arguments before the judge hands the case to jurors for a verdict.

Manafort’s defense opted to call no witnesses, choosing instead to rely on the team’s cross-examination of government witnesses including a very devious Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy, and several accountants, bookkeepers and bankers who had financial dealings with Manafort.

Closing arguments are expected on Wednesday. Jurors may begin deliberating shortly after receiving their final instructions from judge Ellis.

Manafort case has nothing to do with Mueller’s ‘Trump-Russia collusion witch-hunt’ as the former DC lobbyist is accused of defrauding banks to secure loans and hiding overseas bank accounts and income from U.S. tax authorities.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III denied a defense motion to acquit Manafort on the charges because prosecutors hadn’t proved their case.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the circus trial of Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, and how crooked cop Robert Mueller is using all his power to lean on Manafort, so as to conjure up something illegal against US President Donald Trump.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

Prosecutors allege he dodged taxes on millions of dollars made from his work for a Ukrainian political party, then lied to obtain bank loans when cash stopped flowing from the project.

The courtroom was sealed for around two hours Tuesday morning for an unknown reason, reopening around 11:30 a.m. with Manafort arriving around 10 minutes later.

The decision to rest their case without calling any witnesses follows a denial by Judge T.S. Ellis III to acquit Manafort after his lawyers tried to argue that the special counsel had failed to prove its case at the federal trial.

The court session began at approximately 11:45 a.m.:

“Good afternoon,” began defense attorney Richard Westling, who corrected himself and said, “Good morning.”

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Judge Ellis responded.

Ellis then heard brief argument from both sides on the defense’s motion for acquittal, focusing primarily on four counts related to Federal Savings Bank.

Federal Savings Bank was aware of the status of Paul Manafort’s finances,” Westling argued. “They came to the loans with an intent of doing business with Mr. Manafort.”

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye fired back, saying that that even if bank chairman Steve Calk overlooked Manafort’s financial woes, it would still be a crime to submit fraudulent documents to obtain the loans.

“Steve Calk is not the bank,” Asonye argued, adding that while Caulk may have “had a different motive” — a job with the Trump administration — “I’m not really sure there’s evidence he knew the documents were false.”

Ellis sided with prosecutors.

The defense makes a significant argument about materiality, but in the end, I think materiality is an issue for the jury,” he said, adding. “That is true for all the other counts… those are all jury issues.”

Once that exchange was over, Manafort’s team was afforded the opportunity to present their case, to which lead attorney Kevin Downing replied “The defense rests.

Ellis then began to question Manafort to ensure he was aware of the ramifications of that decision, to which the former Trump aide confirmed that he did not wish to take the witness stand.

Manafort, in a dark suit and white shirt, stood at the lectern from which his attorneys have questioned witnesses, staring up at the judge. Ellis told Manafort he had a right to testify, though if he chose not to, the judge would tell jurors to draw no inference from that. – WaPo

Ellis asked Manafort four questions – his amplified voice booming through the courtroom:

Had Manafort discussed the decision with his attorney?

“I have, your honor,” Manafort responded, his voice clear.

Was he satisfied with their advice?

“I am, your honor,” Manafort replied.

Had he decided whether he would testify?

“I have decided,” Manafort said.

“Do you wish to testify?” Ellis finally asked.

“No, sir,” Manafort responded.

And with that, Manafort returned to his seat.

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