Manafort trial begins in biggest test yet for special counsel Robert Mueller

Manafort trial begins in biggest test yet for special counsel Robert Mueller

Manafort trial begins in biggest test yet for special counsel Robert Mueller

The charges all came about through the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

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 35 names include former accountants, assistants and even friends.

Prosecutors plan to produce almost three dozen witnesses during the trial, including Manafort's former associate Richard Gates, who is cooperating with the government after pleading guilty to lesser charges in February.

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Mueller is fighting Manafort's request for the court to exclude more than 50 trial exhibits that relate to his political consulting work in Ukraine between 2005 and 2014.

The trial, starting with selection of a 12-member jury, coincides with growing speculation that Mr Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen may co-operate with federal investigators against the president. Judge T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court, presiding over the Virginia case, wrote in June that "it is plausible, indeed ultimately persuasive here, to argue that the investigation and prosecution has some relevance to the election which occurred months if not years after the alleged misconduct".

His testimony will be significant for "helping to explain how the puzzle pieces all fit together", Little said, particularly as Gates worked so closely with Manafort.

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"The depth of the charges against Paul Manafort is such that at some point, the best decision for him will be to try to cut a deal", said Lisa Griffin, a former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at Duke University.

"Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns", Trump tweeted on June 15.

With Trump frequently calling the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt", the outcome of Manafort's trial one way or another could determine the probe's credibility. But when the special counsel hit the two men with a second indictment in February, Gates pleaded guilty to two lesser counts in exchange for cooperation.

Manafort's Virginia trial is expected to last around three weeks. Three Russian companies have also been charged.

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. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist.

Mueller's team says Manafort's position in the Trump campaign is relevant to some of the bank fraud charges. 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 documents establish the breadth of the work that Manafort performed, including commissioning television ads, writing speeches and carrying on campaign-related activities", read the filing, Bloomberg states.

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