Manafort is first ex-Trump aide on trial in Russian Federation probe

Having his former campaign chairman, who helped run Trump's campaign at a critical point of the election, in the news so consistently shines a negative light on him.

Prosecutors made no reference to Trump in their opening statement nor discussed in any way Manafort's leadership of the Trump campaign, or the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Russian Federation and the president's associates.

As a lobbyist, he developed a reputation for representing the unrepresentable, including former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of torturing, abducting and killing thousands of opponents.

One potential witness was even told to be cautious when speaking of Manafort's NY residence - he owns a condominium in Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, sources told ABC News. He was in the hot seat when Mr Trump eventually won the Republican nomination, and organised the Republican convention in July 2016.

Manafort faces 32 counts of filing false tax returns and bank fraud stemming from his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader.

Of the four former Trump aides ensnared in the probe, Manafort is the only one to go to trial. Manafort is accused of concealing tens of millions of dollars in income from the IRS and fraudulently obtaining millions more in bank loans.

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.

Manafort had been under federal investigation since 2014 over suspicion of illegal lobbying and financial improprieties.

The judge told potential jurors the trial would last no more than three weeks.

This is the first of two trials for Manafort.

The trial is the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation. He's also charged with bank fraud conspiracy for attempting to get a separate $5.5 million loan for a brownstone in Brooklyn, prosecutors say.

Gates was originally a co-defendant in the case, until reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller in February. His investigation is ongoing.

Trump reacted to Manafort's jailing in June by describing it as "very unfair". He has also put distance between himself and Mr Manafort's charges, saying in a tweet: "This is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign".

"On top of that", he added, "the government will bring forth the coup de grace" with incriminating testimony by Gates, Manafort's former business partner.

In her ruling, federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort to pursue his grievances against Mueller during his criminal proceedings.

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said the evidence against Manafort, 69, appeared strong but that he drew a favorable judge in the 78-year old T.S. Ellis, who is known to be tough on prosecutors.

Asonye said Manafort set up more than 30 bank accounts in overseas countries and funnelled millions of dollars into them in order to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle. The second trial, scheduled for September in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests. He also faces an allegation of witness tampering.


Popular

CONNECT