Manafort trial begins


(Lawsiteblog) The trial [NYT report] of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort began on Tuesday.

The indictment [indictment, PDF] alleges that Manafort and Richard Gates, a former deputy chair of the Trump campaign and liaison to the Republican National Committee who has already plead guilty to the charges, acted as unregistered agents of Ukraine and Victor Yanukovyk, the President of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014. The two allegedly evaded taxes on the millions generated by claiming the income was, in fact, a series of loans from overseas corporations. The indictment indicates that more than $75,000,000 dollars were transferred through offshore accounts opened by the pair.

The trial began midday when a jury of six men, six women and four alternates was seated in Judge TS Ellis’ courtroom in the US District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] in Alexandria, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Ellis instructed the attorneys to begin their opening statements.

Assistant United States Attorney Uzo Asonye, a member of the team of the special counsel, told the jury that Manafort had hidden this foreign income and evaded a total of $15,000,000 in taxes. Also in his opening [CNN trial backgrounder], Asonye alleged that Manafort used these funds to buy several homes in New York and Virginia and numerous expensive cars and watches.

In the defense’s opening, Manafort’s attorney, Thomas Zehnle, stated that all of the supposed irregularities in Manafort’s finances were the doing of Gates. Zehlne attempted to paint a picture of Manafort being misled into placing his trust in Gates who ultimately engaged in the alleged illegal conduct. Each opening statement reportedly lasted 30 minutes.

Following the opening statements, Tad Devine, a Democratic political consultant who once worked with Manafort in Ukraine, testified about the extensive work done by both Manafort and Gates in Ukraine. According to Devine, Manafort worked diligently with numerous Ukrainian politicians and that he may have done so as recently as 2014. During cross-examination by the defense, Devine also noted that Gates handled a majority of the “day-to-day” operations while Manafort was primarily in charge of campaign strategy for the client-politicians. Devine’s testimony marked the end of the first day of the trial.

Numerous sources, including the US attorneys prosecuting Manafort, have indicated that the trial will not delve into any alleged collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

The trial will recommence Wednesday and is expected to last three weeks.


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