Jury selection underway in Paul Manafort trial
- Author: Jon Douglas Aug 01, 2018,
Aug 01, 2018, 0:30
Gates was originally a co-defendant in the case, until reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller in February. Earlier in the day, prosecutors and defence attorneys selected a 12-member jury to weigh Manafort's fate.
Manafort is facing charges of bank fraud and tax fraud.
"A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him".
Manafort, 69, was seated in the courtroom wearing a dark suit, white shirt and tie.
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".
Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in. Asonye said the evidence would show he lied to the Internal Revenue Service.
On Monday, prosecutors said in court filings that they meant to prove Manafort earned more than $60 million lobbying for the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government and failed to report "a significant percentage" of that. According to prosecutors, he spent $6.4 million on real estate and $7.3 million on home renovations. In his opening statement, prosecutor Uzo Asonye: "All of these charges boil down to one simple issue: Did Paul Manafort lie?"
The unsuccessful civil lawsuit sought, among other things, to prevent Mueller from bringing additional charges in the future, including potential charges relating to Manafort's work on the Trump campaign. His longtime business partner Rick Gates faces numerous same charges.
This is the first of two trials for Manafort.
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. Trump told reporters last month that Manafort worked for him "for a very short period of time".
Ellis, a 77-year-old Ronald Reagan appointee, expressed skepticism that Mueller's team actually cares about the former Trump campaign chairman's alleged crimes, saying, "I don't see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate". National security lawyer Bradley Moss discusses the latest developments.
He said Trump could help the public understand what is at stake in Mueller's investigation, which both Trump and Caputo have called a "witch hunt" aimed at ending his presidency.
Trump has vacillated between showing sympathy for Manafort and trying to distance himself.
The special counsel does not allege Manafort played a role in Russian interference in the 2016 election.
President Trump denies any collusion with Russian Federation, and today tried to make the case publicly that collusion would not be a crime anyway.
The heart of the government's case involves nine years of Manafort's lucrative lobbying and consulting for Ukraine and its former leader Victor Yanukovych, work the USA government said Manafort should have registered with the Justice Department.