Jury picked for trial of ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Jury picked for trial of ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Kerry Wise
August 1, 2018

Manafort was charged with financial frauds and is the first defendant in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to face trial.

On the surface, the criminal charges against Manafort - tax evasion, failure to report foreign bank accounts and fraudulently obtaining bank loans - are unrelated to the core of Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian Federation.

Manafort faces 32 counts of filing false tax returns and bank fraud stemming from his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader.

"On top of that", he added, "the government will bring forth the coup de grace" with incriminating testimony by Gates, Manafort's former business partner.

Attorney Thomas Zehnle said in his opening statement Tuesday that Manafort trusted others to keep track of the millions of dollars he was earning from his Ukrainian political work.

It's expected to be rich with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into Manafort's pocket.

Gates, you may recall, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then saw charges dropped by Mueller.

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Prosecutors also charged another one of his associates, Konstantin Kilimnik, with working with Manafort to try to tamper with the potential witnesses. He has since been co-operating with the investigation into Mr Manafort.

Mueller was appointed by the U.S. Justice Department's No. 2 official previous year to take over an FBI investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was unlawful co-ordination between Trump's campaign and Moscow. 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.

"On the basis of the record presented thus far, there is no reason to believe that fair and impartial jurors can not be found in the Eastern District of Virginia", the judge concluded. But federal judges overseeing both cases have upheld Mueller's authority to investigate and prosecute Manafort.

Mueller has submitted more than 500 pieces of evidence, including tax filings and mortgage statements, and pictures of Manafort's expensive watches and homes. His defense team argued in their opening statements that he was a victim of his former associate, Richard Gates, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of a plea deal.

But Manafort doesn't appear to have "valuable enough information to make these charges go away altogether", Griffin said. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist. Trump has given no indication that he'll pardon his former campaign chairman. A legal defense fund set up to help cover his mounting bills praises his "lifetime of service" to "no less than four United States presidents."

But the trial will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence gathered by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. "The choice there is serving time in a NY state prison like Rikers Island, as opposed to a plush federal prison".

The trial is a major test for Mueller's team, which is facing a fresh onslaught of attacks from President Donald Trump and Republicans, who are using lies and exaggerations to blast Mueller and his investigators as biased against the president.