Paul Manafort trial: jury selection under way

Posted August 01, 2018

The case against Manafort, brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Eastern District of Virginia, is focused exclusively on allegations that the former Trump adviser had committed a range of financial crimes, from tax evasion to bank fraud, that have no direct tie to his campaign work. Trump denies any collusion with Russian Federation, and on Tuesday tried to make the case publicly that collusion would not be a crime anyway.

Outside the courthouse, a handful of protesters displayed a life-sized puppet of Trump and held signs saying "Trump won't do time for you", "It's Mueller time", and "I like your new suit" alongside a photo of Manafort's mug shot.

Prosecutors have also listed Rick Gates, Manafort's deputy on the Trump campaign and a longtime business associate, as one of the 35 potential witnesses they could call to testify during the trial.

The exhibits show that Manafort did not just work on multiple Ukrainian elections but did political consulting and lobbying work for Yanukovych outside specific campaigns.

But while the trial will focus on Manafort's business dealings, it will bring attention to Mueller's Russian Federation probe, which Trump has repeatedly dismissed as a "witch hunt".

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who has been critical of the special counsel appointment, will preside, report the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post in stories here and here. Manafort faces related charges in Washington, D.C., federal court, where his trial will begin in September.

He faces twelve different counts, all felonies, which include conspiracy against the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements about being a foreign agent, false statements to the Department of Justice, tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and more.

Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday morning.

While the trial may touch on Manafort's communications during the campaign with his partners in the former Soviet bloc, the trial is not expected to focus on campaign ties to Russian Federation.

Mueller's team said it would not present evidence at the trial in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, about possible campaign collusion with Russian Federation, potentially saving it for a second Manafort trial in Washington in September.

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. "When Mueller came in, he revived that investigation".

As president, Trump has downplayed Manafort's role in the campaign.

Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.

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

A Manafort conviction would give momentum to Mueller, who has indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies since the probe started 14 months ago.

In Zehnle's retelling it was Gates who was the point person for Manafort's book-keepers and tax preparers.