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Manafort trial - as it happened: Prosecution lays out former Trump aide's lavish lifestyle on second day of fraud and tax evasion trial

Prosecution lays out case during second day of trial 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
,Chris Stevenson,Clark Mindock
Wednesday 01 August 2018 23:29 BST
Ex-Trump Campaign Chair Manafort's Court Arrival

Prosecutors have raised the possibility that their expected star witness "may not" testify against Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, as they concentrated on Mr Manafort's lavish lifestyle during the second day of his bank fraud trial.

The trial is the first courtroom test for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked last year with investigating Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election and to determine whether any of President Trump's campaign team were involved. So far, Mr Manafort is the lone person to stand trial as a result of the ongoing probe, even though the charges of bank fraud and tax evasion are unrelated to possible collusion. Moscow has denied any interference.

Mr Manafort, 69, is charged with tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to report foreign bank accounts. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges he faces in the Virginia court.

Rick Gates, Mr Manafort's former business partner pleaded guilty to making false statements after being indicted by Mr Mueller, with an agreed plea deal expected to make him the star government witness. However, Judge TS Ellis appeared surprised to hear the prosecution - who said they were moving quicker through their case than expected - may not call him

“He may testify in this case, he may not,” said prosecutor Uzo Asonye, a day after the defence made clear in opening statements to jurors that its strategy was centred on discrediting Mr Gates and blaming him for the fraud.

When the judge asked Mr Asonye for a clarification, Mr Asonye said prosecutors are constantly evaluating the need to call a particular witness and his comments were “not to suggest we are not calling him.”

Prosecutors have portrayed Mr Manafort as a tax cheat who hid money in offshore accounts, and lied to borrow millions more against real estate in a bid to maintain an extravagant lifestyle.

Jurors heard details of Mr Manafort's acquisition of more than $1 million in clothing, expensive cars and more than $3 million in home improvement work — nearly all paid for either in cash or by offshore wire transfers.

An FBI agent present for the July 2017 raid on Mr Manafort's Virginia home, Matthew Mikuska, described finding expensively tailored suits and documents related to other luxury items allegedly bought by Manafort, including two silk rugs bought for $160,000 paid from offshore accounts.

However, the push to show Mr Manafort's extravagance earned a rebuke from Judge Ellis, who had previously shown his distaste for the prosecutions push to criticise wealth.

But when prosecutors introduced photos of Mr Manafort's high-end property and expensive suits, Mr Ellis interrupted so as to limit the growing list of evidence jurors would have to consider.

“All this document shows is that Mr Manafort had a lavish lifestyle,” Judge Ellis said at one point. “It isn't relevant.”

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters


Hello and welcome to The Independent's live coverage as Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, faces his second day on trial over charges of tax evasion and fraud. 

Proceedings are set to get back underway later this morning in Alexandria, Virginia, while it will be early afternoon in the UK.

Adam Withnall1 August 2018 11:49

The jury will gather again any time now for the start of day two, for the moment, here is a catch-up of what happened on day one:

The 12-person jury was selected yesterday morning. It comprises six men and six women. There are also four alternates, three women and a man.

The prosecution's opening statement: Prosecutors accused Manafort of being a “shrewd” liar who orchestrated a global scheme to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars.

The defense's opening statement: Paul Manafort's lawyer pointed the finger at Mr Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and lying to federal investigators in February. Mr Gates has struck a plea deal with prosecutors and has had a number of charges against him dropped.

The first witness: Following opening statements, Tad Devine, the Democratic political consultant who worked with Mr Manafort in Ukraine, took the stand as the first witness called in the case.

Steve Anderson1 August 2018 14:40
Steve Anderson1 August 2018 14:53

Donald Trump has sought to distance himself from the trial, which is the first connected to the investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with Trump presidential campaign officials.

Mr Trump is right that the charges against Mr Manafort are related to political consultancy work in Ukraine, rather than being directly connected to election meddling. However, he is using the case to repeat an old refrain about the case being a "witch hunt"



Steve Anderson1 August 2018 15:02

Before the jury entered the room on Wednesday, the federal judge overseeing Mr Manafort's trial urged both sides to avoid using the term “oligarch” when describing Mr Manafort's patrons in Ukraine. 

Judge TS Ellis told prosecutors not to give jurors the implication that oligarchs were criminals. In making his point, the judge related it to two prominent US political donors.

“Mr. Soros would then be an oligarch ... so would Mr. Koch ... but we wouldn't use that term,” Mr Ellis said, referring to Democratic donor George Soros and one of the billionaire Koch brothers, whose influential network supports Republican candidates. 

Steve Anderson1 August 2018 15:22

Daniel Rabin  is the first witness to take the stand on Day two of the trial.

Mr Rabin - a political consultant focusing on television adverts - is largely speaking about his work in Ukraine with Mr Manafort for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his political party, the Party of Regions.

Prosecutor Greg Andres told the judge the witnesses were testifying so they could establish for the jury the extent of the work Mr Manafort did in Ukraine, up until Mr Yanukovych was ousted in 2014.

Steve Anderson1 August 2018 15:44

Mr Rabin's testimony appears to be part of the defence's strategy to try and blame Mr Manafort's former assistant Rick Gates. Mr Manafort's attorneys have sought to paint a picture alleging that Mr Gates dealt with the money from Mr Manafort's political work.

Mr Gates had been charged alongside Mr Manafort, but struck a plea deal with prosecutors leading to a number of charges against him being dropped. 

Steve Anderson1 August 2018 16:01

FBI agent Matthew Mikuska is next on the stand.

He was one of the FBI agents who raided Paul Manafort's home last year. He has testified that the FBI knocked three times before entering his condo in Washington's Northern Virginia suburbs. Those statements conflict with early media reports following the raid that suggested it had been a "no-knock" raid.

Steve Anderson1 August 2018 16:19

Mr Mikuska, the FBI agent who searched Mr Manafort's Virginia, apartment, has told the jury that Mr Manafort's name was on several documents showing millions of dollars in loan agreements and wire transfer invoices.  

One document shown to jurors appears to show a wire transfer with Mr Manafort's name on it and a $3 million balance. That document said "wire into our account," Mr Mikuska said.

This plays to the crux of the prosecutors argument. That Mr Manafort knowingly signed a number of financial documents that were false. Mr Manafort denies all the charges against him

Steve Anderson1 August 2018 16:32

Clearly not done referencing the Manafort trial, President Donald Trump has posed a question to his Twitter followers: Who was treated worse, "legendary mob boss, killer and 'Public Enemy Number One'" Al Capone or "political operative" Paul Manafort?


It is a comparison he has made before, in an interview last month with Sean Hannity of Fox News.

"Paul Manafort, who clearly is a nice man. You look at what is going on with him. It's like Al Capone. It's just a sad thing," he said.

Steve Anderson1 August 2018 17:13

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