Paul Manafort’s trial is a test for special counsel Robert Mueller

Paul Manafort’s trial is a test for special counsel Robert Mueller

Paul Manafort will have his day in court this week.

Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager, made $60 million in Ukraine as a consultant for Russian-backed politicians, special counsel Robert Mueller's team stated in a court filing Monday.

The indictment was brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director who is looking into Russian meddling in the presidential election, but the charges are not connected to Manafort's time as Trump's campaign chairman.

Those questions will be answered by 12 jurors selected this week as Manafort's trial on tax evasion and bank fraud charges gets underway at the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Trump himself will also come up at least once in the trial, as prosecutors will argue that a bank chairman allowed Manafort to file false loan information in order to get a job in the Trump administration.

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.

Manafort is charged with failing to report the existence of foreign bank accounts to the Internal Revenue Service and bank fraud related to several multi-million-dollar loans he obtained from various banks.

Yesterday, prosecutors said in court filings that they intend to prove that Mr Manafort earned more than $60m (€51m) lobbying for the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government and failed to report "a significant percentage" of that.

Adding to the intrigue is the expected spectacle of Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, testifying against him after cutting a plea deal with prosecutors, and the speculation that Manafort, who faces charges in two different courts and decades in prison if convicted, may be holding out for a pardon from Trump. Earlier this month, the judge denied a bid by Manafort to move the case out of Alexandria. Mueller's original mandate was to investigate not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, but also any other crimes arising from the probe.

The heart of the government's case involves nine years of Manafort's lucrative lobbying and consulting for Ukraine and its former leader Victor Yanukovych, work the USA government said Manafort should have registered with the Justice Department.




Once Yanukovych fled in 2014 and they were making less money, the two used the properties as collateral for over $20 million in loans from multiple US financial institutions.

Soon after, Mueller's office brought new charges against Manafort, adding counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to his case in the District of Columbia. They include accountants, financial advisers, tax preparers and real estate agents.

His lawyers are seeking to exclude evidence at trial that details Manafort's political lobbying work in Ukraine, saying it would be "irrelevant, prejudicial and unnecessarily time-consuming".

"Perhaps he believes that he's done nothing wrong, and because he's done nothing wrong, he's unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever - even if it's a lesser crime", said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor.

None of the charges have any explicit connection to Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 election, and Manafort's lawyers had previously sought to dismiss the indictments against him.

Prosecutors working with Mueller dropped almost two dozen criminal fraud charges against Gates, who reached a plea deal. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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

Before joining Mr Trump's team in summer 2016, Paul Manafort had worked on a number of Republican presidential campaigns, including those of Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s and Ronald Reagan from 1978 to 1980. 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." "The choice there is serving time in a NY state prison like Rikers Island, as opposed to a plush federal prison".

The trial on Manafort's financial dealings will hang over the White House and show just how deeply federal authorities have looked into the private business of Trump associates. The president seized on those words and said Judge Ellis "is really something special, I hear from many standpoints".

Mr Manafort quit Mr Trump's team in August 2016.

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