Trial begins for Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort

Wednesday, 01 Aug, 2018

The trial marks the first court test for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump campaign ties to Russian Federation and related matters, and whose team is prosecuting Manafort. Prosecutors are not expected to address the question of collusion, but Manafort's case is widely viewed as a test to the legitimacy of Mueller's probe, which Trump has called a "witch hunt".

Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Prosecutors claim that Mr Manafort, who ran the USA president's election campaign for five months, hid more than $30 million of that sum in offshore accounts to evade taxes.

Prosecutors plan to present evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a job on the campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration.

This courtroom sketch depicts Paul Manafort, fourth from right, standing with his lawyers in front of US district Judge T.S Ellis III, and the jury during the jury selection of his trial in Alexandria, Va., July 31, 2018.

Manafort faces 18 counts. Gates also worked as an aide on Trump's campaign.

Turley also said he believes "jurors are not likely to identify or empathize with Paul Manafort", whose lavish spending and lifestyle is outlined in court documents.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

Manafort has a notorious penchant for expensive things. Five witnesses were granted immunity.

Testimony in the trial is expected to start Tuesday afternoon.

As president, Trump has downplayed Manafort's role in the campaign. Investigators have since looked into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

Jurors in federal court in Virginia heard opening statements from the prosecution and defence in Manafort's trial on charges that he hid tens of millions of dollars earned in Ukraine in offshore accounts and defrauded banks for loans. Trump has denied any collusion took place. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Manafort hid 30 foreign bank accounts from USA authorities.

"What they claim is they looked at that conduct, is that the Justice Department did and opted not to prosecute him".

On the eve of Tuesday's case, Mr Manafort abandoned his attempt to challenge Mr Mueller in civil court.

"It is hereby stipulated and agreed by and between the parties that the (case) be voluntarily dismissed", the new filing said.

But the judges presiding over the two cases ruled that they could proceed. Asonye added that Manafort signed papers and wrote emails - making it clear that he was the one who controlled the 30 accounts - and used some of the money for "purely personal" expenses, including the ostrich coat. "He could expose himself to further criminal culpability if he has to expose the full extent of those ties".

"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. Three Russian companies have also been charged. Andres' questions appeared aimed at establishing the political work Manafort was doing in Ukraine for the Party of Regions, and that Devine was being paid by Manafort.

Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, all have pleaded guilty.