What does Mueller have? Manafort trial offers glimpse

Aaron Brown
August 1, 2018

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said the evidence against Mr Manafort (69) appears strong, but that he drew a favourable judge in the 78-year old TS Ellis, who is known to be tough on prosecutors, and said the politically charged climate increases the chances of a hung jury. Jury selection is scheduled to start Tuesday. And they won't learn that Manafort's co-defendant in the Washington case is a business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, who lives in Russia and who USA authorities assert has connections to Russian intelligence.

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.

The charges largely predate the five months Mr Manafort worked on the Trump team in 2016, some of them as campaign chairman.

And they plan to introduce evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a role on the Republican campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration that never materialized.

Manafort is accused of taking the money he made working for a Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and hiding it in foreign bank accounts to avoid paying taxes, then turning to bank fraud when the party collapsed.

Manafort actively conferred with his lawyers during the jury selection process, writing and passing notes. His wife sat behind him in the courtroom.

Prosecutors say the word "Russia" isn't likely to come up in this trial, which will center on Manafort's Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president's campaign.

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Just as an acquittal would be bad for Mueller, a Manafort conviction would give Mueller's team juice to keep their investigation going. But he was ensnared in the Russian Federation investigation previous year after Mueller began examining ties between Trump campaign staff and Russian Federation.

Trump has vacillated between showing sympathy for Manafort and trying to distance himself. The president criticized Mueller by name over the weekend and continues to refer to the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference as a "witch hunt" and "an illegal scam".

"It seems to me we're seeing deeper ties that Manafort has had financially with his business deals in the Ukraine and with Russian Federation", said Shanlon Wu, a former lawyer for Manafort associate Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in February and is aiding Mueller's probe.

Prosecutors on Monday said they need to use the exhibits in question to prove that Manafort earned that much income, which they contend he failed to report on his tax returns. Trump denies any collusion with Russian Federation, and on Tuesday tried to make the case publicly that collusion would not be a crime anyway.

Unlike his former colleague Rick Gates, Mr Manafort has not co-operated with the special counsel investigation.

The Virginia trial will be followed by a second one in Washington in September in which Mr Manafort is charged with money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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