FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort leaves the federal courthouse in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

What does Mueller have? Manafort trial offers glimpse

The trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman will open this week with tales of lavish spending on properties and clothing.

The trial of President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman will open this week with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultant’s pocket.

What’s likely to be missing: answers about whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, or really any mention of Russia at all.

Paul Manafort’s financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, will centre on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president’s campaign.

But the broader implications are unmistakable.

The trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday with jury selection in Alexandria, Virginia, will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence Mueller’s team has spent the year accumulating. It will feature testimony about the business dealings and foreign ties of a defendant Trump entrusted to run his campaign during a critical stretch in 2016, including during the Republican convention. And it will unfold at a delicate time for the president as Mueller’s team presses for an interview and as Trump escalates his attacks on an investigation he calls a “witch hunt.”

Adding to the intrigue is the expected spectacle of Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, testifying against him after cutting a plea deal with prosecutors, and the speculation that Manafort, who faces charges in two different courts and decades in prison if convicted, may be holding out for a pardon from Trump.

“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. “Obviously, that’s very risky for him.”

Manafort was indicted along with Gates in Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of co-operating with the government. The remaining 31 individuals charged have either reached plea agreements, including ex-White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged.

Related: Judge sends Trump’s ex-campaign chair Paul Manafort to jail

Related: Manafort, Gates told to surrender in Mueller’s Russia probe

Prosecutors in Manafort’s case have said they may call 35 witnesses, including five who have immunity agreements, as they try to prove that he laundered more than $30 million in Ukrainian political consulting proceeds and concealed the funds from the IRS.

Jurors are expected to see photographs of his Mercedes-Benz and of his Hampton property putting green and swimming pool. There’s likely to be testimony, too, about tailored Beverly Hills clothing, high-end antiques, rugs and art and New York Yankees seasons tickets.

The luxurious lifestyle was funded by Manafort’s political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine’s president in 2014.

Lawyers have tangled over how much jurors will hear of his overseas political work, particularly about his ties to Russia and other wealthy political figures.

At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will preside over the trial, warned prosecutors to restrain themselves, noting the current “antipathy” toward Russia and how “most people in this country don’t distinguish between Ukrainians and Russians.” He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others “at a cocktail party with scantily clad women,” if they exist.

Prosecutor Greg Andres reassured the judge that “there will be no pictures of scantily clad women, period,” nor photographs of Russian flags.

“I don’t anticipate that a government witness will utter the word ‘Russia,’” Andres said.

While jurors will be hearing painstaking detail about Manafort’s finances, they won’t be told about Manafort’s other criminal case, in the nation’s capital, where he faces charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and lying to the government.

Nor will they hear about the reason he’s been jailed since last month after a judge revoked his house arrest over allegations that he and a longtime associate attempted to tamper with witnesses in the case. And they won’t learn that Manafort’s co-defendant in the Washington case is a business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, who lives in Russia and who U.S. authorities assert has connections to Russian intelligence.

Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly sought to play down Manafort’s connection to the president, yet the trial won’t be entirely without references to the campaign.

Mueller’s team says Manafort’s position in the Trump campaign is relevant to some of the bank fraud charges. Prosecutors plan to present evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a job on the campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration. The administration job never materialized.

The trial will afford the public its first glimpse of a defence that so far has focused less on the substance of the allegations than on Mueller’s authority to bring the case in the first place. At one point, his defence lawyers sued Mueller and the Justice Department, saying they had overstepped their bounds by bringing a prosecution untethered to the core questions of Mueller’s investigation — whether Russia worked with the Trump campaign to tip the election.

Ellis rejected that argument despite having initially questioned the special counsel’s motives for bringing the case. He noted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, had explicitly authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort’s business dealings. Mueller’s original mandate was to investigate not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but also any other crimes arising from the probe.

“When a prosecutor looks into those dealings and uncovers evidence of criminal culpability,” said Stanford law professor David Alan Sklansky, “it doesn’t make sense to ask him to avert his eyes.”

___

Eric Tucker And Chad Day, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP looking for missing 17-year-old girl

Police say Rachel Friend was last seen at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 19, near the 14900-block of 81A Avenue

Three-team trade brings another goalie into Surrey Eagles’ nest

BCHL team ships Chase Stevenson to Trail and acquires blue-liner, goalie

McCallum promises taxes won’t rise in Surrey: ‘That’s set in stone’

Surrey mayor says free parking, a municipal force and other campaign promises won’t mean a tax hike

Surrey council approves free two-hour parking at city hall, around hospital

Although council gave its blessing to offer the free parking Monday (Nov. 19), it was already made free last week

Surrey School District says it needs 7 new schools in next decade

Surrey council endorsed the district’s 2019-20 capital plan on Monday, Nov. 19

White Rock pier light show

Dancing lights highlighted off the water front

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

5 to start your day

Body found in Maple Ridge ID’ed as Hells Angel, Japanese ‘rising sun’ flag gone from Langley classroom and more

Bovine tuberculosis found in cow on southern B.C. farm

CFIA said the disease was found during slaughter and they are investigating

Air force getting more planes but has no one to fly them, auditor warns

The report follows several years of criticism over the Trudeau government’s decision not to launch an immediate competition to replace the CF-18s.

B.C.’s Esi Edugyan wins $100K Giller prize for Washington Black

Edugyan won her first Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues

Bolder action needed to reduce child poverty: Campaign 2000 report card

The report calls for the federal government to provide more funding to the provinces, territories and Indigenous communities to expand affordable, quality child care.

Judge bars US from enforcing Trump asylum ban

Protesters accused the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana; complained about how the caravan forced its way into Mexico, calling it an “invasion.”

Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Jonathan Rose suspended for Grey Cup

Rose was flagged for unnecessary roughness and ejected for contacting an official with 37 seconds left in the first half following a sideline melee after a Tiger-Cats reception.

Most Read

l -->