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m3n4.net August 17, 2018


Paul Manafort trial is first court test for special counsel Robert Mueller

01 August 2018, 01:30 | Tara Lloyd

AFP Contributor AFP

AFP Contributor  AFP

"A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him - not tax law, not banking law", Asonye said as he sketched out the evidence gathered by special counsel Robert Mueller's team in Manafort's bank fraud and tax evasion trial.

It's the first trial arising from Mr Mueller's investigation into potential ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

Prosecutors have lined up 35 witnesses and more than 500 pieces of evidence they say will show how Manafort earned more than $60 million (U.S.) from his Ukrainian work and then concealed a "significant percentage" of that money from the IRS.

Manafort is accused of failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars he was paid by a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, and with lying to American banks to borrow millions more when that work dried up.

According to prosecutor Greg Andres, "We don't intend to mention alleged collusion with the Russians", adding "a very small portion of the trial" will mention collusion - but only in connection to the government's claim that Manafort traded on his relationship to Trump to obtain foreign bank loans.

At the centre of all this will be another Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, who spent years working for Manafort in Ukraine and is also accused of helping him falsify paperwork used to obtain the bank loans.

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By midday, a jury of six women and six men, with four alternates, was in place.

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

His 30-minute opening statement painted Manafort as a successful but busy global consultant who trusted Gates and other outside professionals to handle the day-to-day operations of his business, including its finances.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

The trial will give the public the most detailed glimpse yet into a part of the Mueller investigation.

In recent months, prosecutors in Mueller's office have produced detailed indictments charging at least Russian 25 individuals and three Russian companies with crimes related to election interference, including hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, money laundering and stealing USA citizen's identities.

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Manafort, attorney Tom Zehnle told jurors, made a mistake in "placing his trust in the wrong person" who was now willing to say anything to keep himself out of trouble.

Mr Manafort, who has been jailed for almost two months, wore a black suit and appeared fully engaged in his defence, whispering with his lawyers during jury selection and scribbling notes as the prosecution began its opening statement.

Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Mr Manafort denies all charges, and at one point had sought to get them dismissed.

The judge overseeing that trial, Berman Jackson, revoked Manafort's bail last month and ordered him to await trial from a jail cell.

Ellis said he thinks "the government's correct" in using the documents to broadly show how Manafort made his money.

If Manafort is acquitted, "it will benefit President Trump tremendously, because it will cast into doubt all of the legitimacy of the process that is occurring", said Joshua Dressler, a professor of criminal law and criminal procedure at Ohio State University.

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



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