Manafort trial begins in biggest test yet for special counsel Robert Mueller

31 July, 2018, 15:39 | Author: Angel Logan
  • Paul Manafort spent $18,000 on karaoke equipment court documents reveal

Although the charges have nothing to do with Mueller's primary goal of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election including possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the stakes are extremely high for both the president and the special counsel.

Manafort's trial promises tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultant's pocket.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller releases a list of 35 potential witnesses set to testify in a trial beginning July 31.

Manafort's defense team has argued any mention of Trump could be seized on by jurors who have an unfavorable view of the president. The judge in the case, T.S. Ellis, has said that he doesn't think it will need to go longer than three weeks and would like it to wrap up in two. Manafort would eventually help Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Russia-aligned Party of Regions, win the presidency in 2010. He is charged with multiple crimes for allegedly failing to report his Ukrainian income, tax evasion and bank fraud. But in February, Gates agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation and pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and lying to investigators.

"To the extent that public opinion affects the Mueller probe, he'll then have to ask himself whether he needs to change course", said Barak Cohen, a former federal corruption prosecutor.

Their paths crossed again in 2006, when Manafort hired Gates - under his spin-off firm Davis Manafort- as he was launching on a lucrative consulting endeavor in Ukraine.

"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.

According to former prosecutors, Gates' agreement with Mueller will likely be a target of Manafort's attorneys when they get a chance to cross examine him.

"As explained at the hearing, the government expects to prove that Manafort earned more than $60 million dollars from Ukraine during the period at issue and failed to report, a significant percentage of it on his tax returns", prosecutors wrote.

"You really don't care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud.What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump of lead to his prosecution or impeachment", Ellis said.

Mr Manafort took over as chairman of the Trump campaign in May 2016 and aimed to present a more thoughtful candidate, who stuck to scripts instead of ad-libbing in campaign rallies.

The decision to drop the appeal comes one day before Manafort's criminal trial is scheduled to begin in Virginia federal court.

Konstantin Kilimnik, a political consultant and one-time associate of Manafort, has been accused by prosecutors in the Washington case of having ties to Russian intelligence and helping Manafort try to tamper with witnesses.

The prospect of Manafort being found guilty on all charges could mean he spends the rest of his life in prison.

Mueller has indicted a total of 32 people so far in connection with his probe into whether any members of Trump's election campaign colluded with Russian Federation to help get the NY real estate tycoon into the White House.

Seven prosecutors from Mueller's office were expected to feature prominently in the trial, including veteran government attorneys Andrew Weissmann and Greg Andres, who returned to the government from private practice to work on Mueller's probe.

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