Paul Manafort believed he was above the law: U.S. prosecutor

Paul Manafort trial offers glimpse into what Robert Mueller actually has in his investigation
Manafort trial to shed light on Mueller probe evidence

01 August, 2018

Paul Manafort's financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, will centre on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president's campaign.

It's the first trial arising from Mr Mueller's investigation into potential ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

Mr. Manafort has pleaded not guilty and denies all of the charges, which include accusations that he didn't pay taxes on $30 million in income he earned from consulting for Ukrainian politicians in the early 2010s, and accusations that he misled multiple banks in 2015 and 2016 to obtain millions of dollars in loans.

Asonye said Manafort created "bogus" loans, falsified documents and lied to his tax preparer and bookkeeper to hide the money, which he obtained from Ukrainian oligarchs through a series of shell company transfers and later from fraudulently obtained bank loans in the U.S.

None said they knew Manafort, his lawyers or their law firms.

At the center of all this will be another Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, who spent years working for Manafort in Ukraine and is also accused of helping him falsify paperwork used to obtain the bank loans. The 12-person jury comprises six men and six women.

Given the strength of the evidence, however, some legal experts have suggested Manafort may be banking on an eventual pardon from Trump, who has called his former campaign chairman a "nice guy" who has been treated unfairly.

WASHINGTON-Two questions loom large as Paul Manafort prepares to walk into a federal courtroom Tuesday: Will Donald Trump's former campaign chairman spend what effectively could be the rest of his life in prison?

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Ellis had given the pool of 65 potential jurors an overview of the charges against Manafort, though he reminded the group that the indictment "is not evidence of any guilt whatsoever".

Mr Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty, faces 18 counts.

Or will special counsel Robert Mueller be handed a defeat in his team's first trial since his appointment more than a year ago?

One of the judges, T.S. Ellis, said prosecutors rightfully "followed the money paid by pro-Russian officials" to Manafort.

In recent months, prosecutors in Mueller's office have produced detailed indictments charging at least Russian 25 individuals and three Russian companies with crimes related to election interference, including hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, money laundering and stealing USA citizen's identities. Prosecutors say he falsely indicated he didn't have bank accounts in foreign countries and underreported his earnings to limit his taxable income.

Manafort remained defiant, vowing to fight the charges.

The appellate judges said Manafort was rightfully jailed because he had decided "to push the envelope by contributing to an op-ed in a foreign newspaper" while under a gag order, and also had "repeated communications with potential witnesses" for his upcoming trial. Some documents are necessary to show Manafort's connections with those consultants, prosecutors say. That was an apparent reference to one of the expensive purchases Mr. Manafort allegedly made which prosecutors said they planned to describe at trial. A separate Washington, D.C. trial is scheduled to begin in September.

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