Manafort is first ex-Trump aide on trial in Russian Federation probe

by Abel Hampton August 1, 2018, 2:34
Manafort is first ex-Trump aide on trial in Russian Federation probe

A jury has been seated in the trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on tax evasion and bank fraud charges.

Prosecutors are seeking to provide details of Mr Manafort's work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, raising the possibility that new information about his Russian connections could emerge.

He is facing charges that he hid tens of millions of dollars earned in Ukraine in offshore accounts and defrauded banks for loans.

Prosecutors also accuse him of lying to US banks to obtain real estate loans in a bid to maintain a lavish lifestyle after his client, former pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, fell from power in 2014 and the money stopped.

Manafort was initially ordered to remain under house arrest as he awaited trial, but U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the case in the District of Columbia, sent him to jail in June after prosecutors flagged evidence that Manafort had been trying to influence the testimony of potential witnesses. He has since been co-operating with the investigation into Mr Manafort.

It's the first trial to stem from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

Gates, who worked alongside Manafort as a political consultant, was indicted along with Manafort in October 2017. The defense had anxious voters in Northern Virginia leaned more Democratic than in the western part of the state in 2016, but the Reagan-appointed judge said that was not the standard to assess whether a defendant could receive a fair trial. "There is going to be exhibits showing what he used the money for - to buy various properties and luxury goods". They include accountants, financial advisers, tax preparers and real estate agents.

"My guess is you will see O.J. -type frenzy at this court event", said Michael Caputo, a former Trump aide and longtime Manafort associate, referring to the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Manafort's defense countered that the true culprit in the case is not Manafort, but Gates. Gates pleaded guilty earlier this year and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Manafort faces charges in two different courts and could spend decades in prison if convicted.

"The depth of the charges against Paul Manafort is such that at some point, the best decision for him will be to try to cut a deal", said Lisa Griffin, a former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at Duke University. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Manafort hid 30 foreign bank accounts from U.S. authorities. Giuliani said he and Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer, had told the president: "This would be a very bad thing to do now".

Yet the trial also contains pitfalls for Trump.

But even a presidential pardon may not help. But federal judges overseeing both cases have upheld Mueller's authority to investigate and prosecute Manafort.

"He'd be in worse position than he was when he started", Akerman said. Despite that, Manafort's case is widely viewed as a test to the legitimacy of Mueller's ongoing probe, which Trump has dismissed as a "witch hunt".

Mr Manafort quit Mr Trump's team in August 2016.

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