Former Trump Campaign Chair Goes on Trial

Former Trump Campaign Chair Goes on Trial

America's Voice Admin
July 31, 2018

Former Trump Campaign Chair Goes on Trial

Security personnel from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service, watch the vicinity around the Alexandria Federal Court in Alexandria, Va., on day one of Paul Manafort's trial, July 31, 2018.
Security personnel from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service, watch the vicinity around the Alexandria Federal Court in Alexandria, Va., on day one of Paul Manafort's trial, July 31, 2018.

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA —

The tax and bank fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort got underway on Tuesday with the formal process of jury selection in the closely watched case

Several dozen potential jurors were called into an Alexandria, Virginia, federal courtroom by the presiding judge in the case, T.S. Ellis III.

The trial, the only one to arise from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, is widely seen as a test of the probe's heft and credibility.

FILE - Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC.
FILE – Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On the surface, the criminal charges against Manafort — tax evasion, failure to report foreign bank accounts and fraudulently obtaining bank loans — are unrelated to the core of Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. national election.

The charges stem from Manafort’s decade-long lobbying and political consulting work for Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych.

FILE - Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovych speaks at a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Nov. 25, 2016.
FILE – Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovych speaks at a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Nov. 25, 2016.

While working for Yanukovych and his pro-Russia Party of Regions between 2006 and 2015, Manafort and his former business partner, Rick Gates, allegedly earned tens of millions of dollars in fees while hiding the income from the Internal Revenue Service.

To avoid paying hefty taxes, prosecutors say, they set up secret shell companies and offshore accounts to funnel their Ukrainian proceeds disguised as “loans” to U.S. accounts to buy multimillion dollar properties and luxury goods.

FILE - A court artist drawing shows President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, center standing and Manafort's business associate, Rick Gates, in federal court in Washington, Oct. 30, 2017, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson.
FILE – A court artist drawing shows President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, center standing and Manafort's business associate, Rick Gates, in federal court in Washington, Oct. 30, 2017, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson.

After Yanukovych was deposed in 2014 and their Ukrainian income dwindled, Manafort and Gates allegedly came up with another scheme to obtain money: the two used their real estate properties in the United States as collateral to fraudulently secure more than $20 million in bank loans by “falsely inflating” their income.

In all, prosecutors say, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts Manafort and Gates set up.

Manafort has been in jail since June, when the judge presiding over the Washington case revoked his bail for allegedly tampering with potential witnesses.

The special counsel has enlisted as many as 35 witnesses to testify against Manafort. They include accountants, financial advisers, tax preparers and real estate agents.

But prosecutors’ star witness is likely to be Gates, who worked closely with Manafort in Ukraine and later followed him into Trump’s campaign as deputy chairman.

FILE - Rick Gates, former campaign aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington.
FILE – Rick Gates, former campaign aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington.

Gates was named as a co-defendant in the initial indictment handed down against Manafort last October. 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 has remained defiant, vowing to fight the charges.

Original Article