Published: Tue, July 31, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Trial set to begin for ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Trial set to begin for ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Monday gave up his effort to challenge special counsel Robert Mueller in civil court.

Prosecutors preparing witnesses for the upcoming trial of President Donald Trump's one-time campaign chairman Paul J. Manafort are advising them to avoid mentioning Trump's name, ABC News has learned. Manafort's work for the pro-Russian government in Ukraine plays a central role in the allegations against him, since prosecutors say he concealed income from that work from USA tax officials and allegedly laundered more than $18 million in proceeds. Jon Brain reports from Washington.

"Hearing the voice of so many Americans who felt unrepresented by our government, Paul helped to define Donald Trump's core beliefs and, along with other remarkably talented individuals, they achieved what is believed to be one of the greatest victories in the annals of any presidential campaign", the defense fund site said.

Lawyers working for special counsel Robert Mueller plan to call witnesses they say demonstrate where Manafort spent his allegedly ill-gotten gains: custom-made suits; Persian rugs; landscaping fees; Land Rovers and Mercedes-Benz vehicles; and season tickets to the New York Yankees, among other items.

"The defense doesn't want to be prejudiced by association with Trump", Wisenberg opined.

Winning a conviction against the first person to go on trial in Mueller's probe would strengthen the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director's resolve and his team's credibility as President Donald Trump assails his inquiry as a politically motivated "witch hunt", legal experts say.

The Mueller team laid out tight restrictions for witnesses in recent days, according to two sources familiar with those conversations. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, Ellis has questioned the scope of Mueller's probe and said Manafort's indictment seemed to be aimed at getting him to provide information on Trump.

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Plus, an American public that sees a positive public display of how the special counsel's team is handling themselves "will make it much more hard for Trump to smear these prosecutors in the way he has previously". Gates has agreed to cooperate with the Mueller probe. Other targets in the probe might also feel less pressure to co-operate in exchange for immunity.

But that lofty rhetoric stands in contrast to Manafort's current circumstances. Manafort's former co-defendant, Richard Gates, was Manafort's right hand man and worked for both DMP and DMI. Here's everything you need to know about the case. Gates, who cut a plea deal with Mueller earlier this year, is expected to testify against his former mentor. Manafort has filed a motion to have details of that work excluded from trial.

- Hoping for a pardon? If this goes to trial, it's because Manafort didn't have anything to trade. But in June, his bail terms were revoked and he was jailed to await trial after it was alleged that he tried to contact and sway two government witnesses by phone. The special counsel says it will need three weeks to try the case.

Manafort has been charged with four counts of bank fraud and five counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

A jury that takes a long time to deliberate might be hung up on legal technicalities, "but it might suggest that [they feel] that Mueller is overreaching" by going outside his original mandate, he said.

He is scheduled to go on trial in the USA capital in September on separate charges brought by Mueller of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to register as an agent of a foreign government.

Judge T.S. Ellis will preside in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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