Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Trial Begins for Trump’s Ex-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort made more than $60M consulting for Russia-backed party in Ukraine: prosecutors Trial Begins for Trump’s Ex-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort
Jay Anderson | 01 August, 2018, 21:04

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III specifically told prosecutors to stop using the word "oligarch" to describe wealthy Ukrainians, whose dealings with Manafort are at the heart of the fraud charges he faces in northern Virginia federal court.

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

Prosecutors say President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman orchestrated a multimillion-dollar conspiracy to evade us tax and banking laws, leaving behind a trail of lies as he lived a lavish lifestyle.

Prosecutors plan to produce almost three dozen witnesses during the trial, including Manafort's former associate Richard Gates, who is cooperating with the government after pleading guilty to lesser charges in February.

Manafort, a veteran Republican political consultant, served as chairman of Trump's presidential election campaign for three months in 2016 before being forced to step down amid questions about his lobbying work in Ukraine.

His defense team's opening day strategy was to try and undermine the Mueller team's star witness, Rick Gates, who was Manafort's deputy in business and at the Trump campaign.

"We're primarily here because of one man - Rick Gates", Zehnle said.

Manafort, the lone American charged by Mueller who has opted to stand trial instead of cooperate with prosecutors, was described by his defense lawyer as a hugely successful global political consultant who left the details of his finances to others.




Paul Manafort faces 18 criminal counts, including bank fraud, and could face up to 30 years in jail if found guilty. But Manafort, according to prosecutors, hid the existence of his offshore accounts from his own tax preparers and bookkeepers.

Yet the trial also contains pitfalls for Trump. Manafort worked on Trump's presidential campaign for five months and attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians that is a focal point of Mueller's probe into possible collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin. Trump denies any collusion with Russian Federation, and on Tuesday tried to make the case publicly that collusion would not be a crime anyway.

He said Gates took advantage of his position overseeing day-to-day operations of Manafort's consulting firm. Four alternate jurors, three women and one man, also were chosen.

But Zehnle said there was no evidence that Manafort ever meant to deceive the IRS.

Given the strength of the evidence, however, some legal experts have suggested Mr Manafort may be banking on an eventual pardon from Mr Trump, who has called his former campaign chairman a "nice guy" who has been treated unfairly.

Manafort has a second trial scheduled for September in the District of Columbia.

The unsuccessful civil lawsuit sought, among other things, to prevent Mueller from bringing additional charges in the future, including potential charges relating to Manafort's work on the Trump campaign.

Mueller's team has indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies, including the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials.

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