Paul Manafort, ex-Trump campaign chief, to begin trial

Wednesday, 01 Aug, 2018

"The court will provide your lunch, every day", he said. "That's what Rick Gates was being paid to do".

He warned jurors not to believe Gates when he testifies against Manafort.

The tax and bank fraud trial represents the first test of Mueller's ability to win a conviction of a former Trump aide. President Donald Trump and Manafort have both said there was no collusion.

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

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, said no one facing trial should expect a pardon, but he did not rule one out.

On Monday, prosecutors said in court filings that they meant to prove Manafort earned more than $60 million lobbying for the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government and failed to report "a significant percentage" of that.

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. The grand jury indictment accused Manafort of funneling the money to offshore accounts in Cyprus, the Seychelles and other locations, as well as failing to report it to the IRS. He is the only American charged by Mueller to opt for a trial. The defense had anxious voters in Northern Virginia leaned more Democratic than in the western part of the state in 2016, but the Reagan-appointed judge said that was not the standard to assess whether a defendant could receive a fair trial.

The judge even interrupted the prosecutor during his opening statements to caution him against suggesting there was something criminal about being a multimillionaire.

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At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will preside over the trial, warned prosecutors to restrain themselves, noting the current "antipathy" toward Russia and how "most people in this country don't distinguish between Ukrainians and Russians".

At the same time, Mueller's team continues to press the president's legal team for an interview with the commander in chief. But none of the cases stemming from Mueller's probe have gone to a jury trial - until now.

"There was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!" Trump denies any collusion with Russian Federation, and on Tuesday tried to make the case publicly that collusion would not be a crime anyway.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Dozens of jurors packed a federal courtroom Tuesday in Alexandria, Virginia, to face questions from a judge and lawyers about whether they can be fair and impartial.

Just before 2 p.m., prosecutors and defense attorneys finalized the twelve men and women who will serve as jurors, as well as four alternates.

He faces a separate trial in late September, on related charges, in Washington, D.C. It involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the US government. Three other aides, including Manafort's longtime business partner Gates, have already pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller's probe. Manafort then asked the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, to review her decision.