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

Lamar Ellis
August 2, 2018

Trump repeatedly has sought to discredit Mueller's investigation, which is also looking into whether Trump's campaign coordinated with Moscow and whether the president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.

Prosecutors charge that Manafort used offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes on tens of millions of dollars earned as a political consultant overseas, and say he fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in loans from financial institutions. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign chief - and dozens of pages of evidence on Manafort's lavish lifestyle.

The prosecution called witnesses to hammer home the point.

Prosecutors have said they don't plan to offer evidence related to the Russian Federation case, and that references to Manafort's association with the Trump campaign will be limited.

As a lobbyist, he developed a reputation for representing the unrepresentable, including former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of torturing, abducting and killing thousands of opponents.

Some Democratic lawmakers said Trump's tweets showed an intent to obstruct justice. Prosecutors appeared to be using his testimony to establish the nature of Manafort's work in Ukraine. At the same time, the Republican Party changed the language in its manifesto regarding the conflict in Ukraine, removing anti-Russian sentiment.

Gates, 46, pleaded guilty to two lesser charges February, agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel's investigation. He has since been co-operating with the investigation into Mr Manafort.

Judge T.S. Ellis said before the trial began that he wanted the proceedings to wrap in three weeks or less, and Tuesday's proceedings lived up to the Alexandria, Va., courthouse's reputation as the "Rocket Docket".

Yesterday, prosecutors said in court filings that they intend to prove that Mr Manafort earned more than $60m (€51m) lobbying for the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government and failed to report "a significant percentage" of that.

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Testimony in the second day of Manafort's trial, the first stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 14-month investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 us election, was overshadowed by Trump's call for an end to the probe that prompted some Democrats to accuse him of obstruction of justice.

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

In response, Asonye said, "Well your honor, we constantly re-evaluate by the evidence that comes in". His investigation is ongoing. Providing the jury with plausible alternatives for why Manafort's money was illegally hidden - such as Gates going behind Manafort's back to embezzle money from him - could plant more seeds of doubt. "Manafort placed himself and his money over the law".

Manafort spent more than $100,000 at the store in 2010, and more than $444,000 in 2013, according to Katzman. Giuliani said he and Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer, had told the president: "This would be a very bad thing to do now".

Zehnle warned jurors that Gates could not be trusted and was the type of witness who would say anything he could to save himself from a lengthy prison sentence and a crippling financial penalty.

At an earlier hearing, a federal judge criticised Mr Mueller's team and accused it of using Mr Manafort.

"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 will then go on trial again in September in Washington, D.C. He faces another seven charges there, including conspiracy against the United States. He also faces an allegation of witness tampering.

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