Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Trial set to begin for ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort

Lisa Bryan | 01 August, 2018, 21:04

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III says oligarch has a "pejorative" meaning and using it isn't relevant to the bank fraud and tax evasion charges against Manafort.

Prosecutors say he hid millions of dollars in income from lobbying for Ukrainian politicians, failed to pay taxes while spending the money on USA real estate and luxury purchases, and lied to banks in order to take out more than $20 million in loans.

The trial of Donald Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, has begun in Virginia.

Gates, a longtime business associate of Manafort and a onetime senior Trump campaign aide, pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts: conspiracy against the US and lying to federal authorities. But that trust was misplaced, Zehnle said in an opening statement that made clear that undermining the credibility of Gates - a former Trump campaign aide who spent years working for Manafort in Ukraine - is central to the defense strategy.

In opening statements for the defense, Manafort's defense attorney Thomas Zehnle laid out the bare bones of his side of the case, shifting much of the blame to the Ukrainian oligarchs Manafort worked for and the business associates he worked with.

Lawyers for Manafort countered by painting Manafort as a victim of his employees, including former colleague Rick Gates, who is cooperating with Mueller's probe.

Mueller's team has estimated it could take eight to 10 days to present its case to the jury, suggesting the trial may last at least three weeks.

As campaign manager, Manafort was responsible for all aspects of Trump's White House bid, including shoring up delegate support.

Trump himself will also come up at least once in the trial, as prosecutors will argue that a bank chairman allowed Manafort to file false loan information in order to get a job in the Trump administration.


Ellis has scolded members of Mueller's team before, asserting back in May that the team was really interested in targeting President Trump.

He said Mr Trump could help the public understand what is at stake in Mr Mueller's investigation, which both Mr Trump and Mr Caputo have called a "witch hunt" aimed at ending his presidency.

Paul Manafort, who is being held in solitary confinement, has otherwise bragged about his jail stay and his "VIP treatment".

The government's first witness following opening statements was Tad Devine, who recalled his work with Manafort in Ukraine to help pro-Russian political figure Viktor Yanukovych. A jury of six men and six women was ultimately selected, along with four alternate jurors.

Manafort ran Trump's campaign for five months in the spring of 2016. Manafort and Gates were the first two people indicted by a grand jury, and Manafort is the first to go to trial.

After several hours of discussions with individual jurors, prosecutors from the special counsel's office and lawyers for Mr. Manafort rejected about 20 potential jurors.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, said no one facing trial should expect a pardon, but he did not rule one out. It involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the USA government.

Manafort is also charged in federal court in Washington with undisclosed foreign lobbying and money laundering.

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