Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Paul Manafort trial: Former Trump aide 'put himself above the law'

Paul Manafort trial: Former Trump aide 'put himself above the law' Paul Manafort trial: Former Trump aide 'put himself above the law'
Patty Aguilar | 01 August, 2018, 18:27

The trial of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, started Tuesday - the first to play out since Robert Mueller began his special counsel investigation.

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye told the jury that Manafort considered himself above the law as he funneled tens of millions of dollars through offshore accounts.

In describing the 18 counts facing Manafort, Asonye said that Manafort did not pay taxes on a large portion of the $60 million he earned working for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, hid the income in a web of 30 overseas bank accounts, and lied to USA banks to borrow millions of dollars against his real estate holdings once the money from Ukraine dried up.

Manafort, the former chairman of the Donald Trump presidential campaign, was jailed in mid-June on suspicions of witness tampering.

"There was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!"

As campaign manager, Manafort was responsible for all aspects of Trump's White House bid, including shoring up delegate support.

On the eve of Tuesday's case, Mr Manafort abandoned his attempt to challenge Mr Mueller in civil court. "His trust in Rick Gates was misplaced", Zehnle said, alleging that Gates had embezzled millions of dollars from Manafort.

"Money's coming in fast".

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Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said the evidence against Mr Manafort (69) appears strong, but that he drew a favourable judge in the 78-year old TS Ellis, who is known to be tough on prosecutors, and said the politically charged climate increases the chances of a hung jury. Gates also worked as an aide on Trump's campaign.

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.

Lawyers for the special counsel have, however, said that "the government does not intend to present at trial evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government".

Manafort felt tax and banking laws did not apply to him, a prosecutor said in the government's opening statement, telling the Virginia federal court jury he opened more than 30 bank accounts in three foreign countries to "receive and hide" income. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Manafort hid 30 foreign bank accounts from USA authorities. He said that arrangement was not Manafort's doing but was instead the preferred method of payment of the supporters of the pro-Russia Ukrainian political party who were paying his consulting fees.

"Paul Manafort shouldn't be here", he added. "We do not dispute that". Opening statements were expected later in the afternoon. 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".

The sharp words marked a dramatic opening to the trial, in keeping with the notoriously fast-moving Eastern District Court of Virginia, which lawyers often refer to as home to the "rocket docket".

In releasing the jurors on Tuesday, Judge Ellis warned them against watching the news or talking to family about the case, even though there was sure to be "intense curiosity" about it. Manafort has filed a motion to have details of that work excluded from trial. That trial, set in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that the longtime political consultant acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the USA government.

They point to former associate Rick Gates, who has pleaded guilty to similar charges and is now cooperating in the Mueller investigation. Three Russian companies have also been charged. In addition to his Virginia case, Manafort faces lobbying-related charges in Washington.

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