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

Bad weather delays next Prince Rupert/Haida Gwaii ferry

Stormy weather will delay the next ferry sailing from Prince Rupert to… Continue reading

Social media strains over Prince Rupert’s boil water notice

Resident forms Community for Clean Water, and Jennifer Rice responds acting mayor’s comments

Port authority imposes ban on development around Lelu Island

Following Pacific Northwest LNG, there will be no future projects proposed near Flora Bank

Shutter Shack being held hostage by landlords, protesters say

Victoria-based landlords to supervise removal of equipment from their Prince Rupert commercial unit

B.C. chiefs show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Chiefs from around B.C. outside the Coastal GasLink pipeline route in Smithers show support.

This Week Show – Episode 118

Highlights from this week in Prince Rupert

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Student rangers sought for Terrace

Young adults interested in student ranger program have until Feb. 24 to apply

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

Most Read