Manafort trial to focus on lavish lifestyle, not collusion

Manafort trial to focus on lavish lifestyle, not collusion

Manafort trial to focus on lavish lifestyle, not collusion

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?

"Perhaps he believes that he's done nothing wrong, and because he's done nothing wrong, he's unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever - even if it's a lesser crime", said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor.

A lawyer for Paul Manafort says the former Trump campaign chairman never meant to deceive USA authorities about his income or his foreign bank accounts.

The prosecution could be rethinking whether Gates, who pleaded guilty in February to money laundering charges in exchange for offering information on Manafort, will help them, multiple experts said.

He made clear that undermining the credibility of Rick Gates, his former business associate and the government's star witness, is central to the defense strategy. Gates is expected to be a prominent witness at the trial.

Manafort is charged with bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy for a Manhattan condo loan of $3.4 million, allegedly falsely saying it wasn't a rental property to maximize the amount he borrowed.

Thomas Green, who represents Gates, did not respond to a request for comment on the new accusations.

Mr Manafort is also accused of lying to banks to obtain millions more in loans after his employers, the pro-Russian party of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych lost power in 2014, and his vast income dried up.

The government intends to show that Manafort funneled more than $60 million in proceeds from his Ukrainian political consulting through offshore accounts and hid a "significant" portion of it from the IRS.

He asked Manafort to stand up and face the jury, calling him "a good man" and a talented political consultant.

A judge jailed Manafort in June over allegations of witness tampering as he awaited trial. He said Manafort "worked for me for a very short time". An acquittal would support efforts by Trump and his allies to portray the investigation as a "witch hunt".

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Trump denies any campaign collusion with Russian Federation, and on Tuesday tried to make the case publicly that collusion would not be a crime anyway.

On the second day of Manafort's trial, the first stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 14-month investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 USA election, the judge also tried to rein in prosecutors in their description of Manafort's lavish lifestyle.

It might not be compelling enough for Manafort's team to simply deny he willfully lied when he signed tax documents to circumvent the law and hide money.

He attended the Trump Tower meeting during which a Russian lawyer promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, but Russia's interference in the 2016 election is not expected to be brought up in this trial.

Earlier in the day, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis presided over selection of a 12-member jury, six men and six women.

Manafort arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning wearing a black suit, with his hair neatly parted.

Manafort actively conferred with his lawyers during the jury selection process, writing and passing notes.

He said Manafort entrusted him with running the day to day operations of the company, but instead Gates abused his trust and "embezzled tens of millions of dollars form his longtime employer".

Prosecutor Greg Andres argued that Manafort's spending was important to the case.

Manafort is also due to face other charges in a separate trial in Washington. The charges stem from Manafort's activities from 2006-2017.

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