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Manafort trial - LIVE: Uzo Asonye tells jury former Trump official 'paid for $15,000 ostrich jacket' and other lavish items using expenses

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
,Tom Barnes
Tuesday 31 July 2018 22:01 BST
Ex-Trump Campaign Chair Manafort's Court Arrival

The trial of former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort begins on Tuesday with the lobbyist accused of tax evasion and bank fraud.

Charges against Mr Trump’s former aide have been brought as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

However, while that investigation focuses on potential meddling by Moscow in the US democratic system, Mr Manafort’s trial will focus more on his dealings in Ukraine, with brief mentions of the election race.

It may however produce politically damaging headlines for the Mr Trump, as the dealings of a man who ran his presidential campaign for three months are picked over in public.

Mr Manafort has denied the charges, but has been warned he could spend the rest of his life behind bars if found guilty.

Prosecutors have lined up 35 witnesses and more than 500 pieces of evidence they believe will show the lobbyist earned more than $60m (£47m) from his Ukrainian dealings, while concealing a “significant percentage” from the IRS.

He may yet face a further trial in Washington this September on charges relating to possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Follow our live updates of Paul Manafort's trial here:

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During the current trial, jurors are expected to see photographs of Mr Manafort’s Mercedes-Benz and of his Hampton property putting green and swimming pool.

There is 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 Mr Manafort's political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine's president in 2014.

Mr Manafort served as Donald Trump's campaign manager for three months
Mr Manafort served as Donald Trump's campaign manager for three months (Getty)

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.

Mr Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly sought to play down Mr Manafort's connection to the president, yet the trial won't be entirely without references to the campaign.

Mr Mueller's team says Mr 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 that never materialised.


Hello and welcome to The Independent's live coverage on the first day of the trial of former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

We will be bringing you updates throughout the day as the former aide faces tax evasion and bank fraud charges resulting from the Mueller probe into the Trump administration.

Tom Barnes31 July 2018 13:23

Although charges against Mr Manafort have been brought following the Mueller probe into potential Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, the issue of Moscow's meddling in the poll may receive little to no attention in this particular trial.

It will instead focus on the lobbyist's business dealings in Ukraine, although evidence of possible collusion with Russia collected by Mr Mueller's team may be used to bring a second trial against Mr Manafort later this year. 

For more background on the trial, read here:

Tom Barnes31 July 2018 13:28

Who is Paul Manafort? Why is he on trial? How could this affect Donald Trump? 

These are all valid questions you may be asking if you have not been following this story closely.

Luckily, this exhaustive guide will bring you up to speed with what is happening today and why:

Tom Barnes31 July 2018 13:42

Jury selection for Mr Manafort's trial is due to begin in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, at around 10am EDT (3pm BST).

A jury of 12 people chosen by the judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers will be tasked with deciding whether or not the lobbyist is guilty of tax evasion and fraud charges.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, who have brought the case to court, has estimated it could take 8 to 10 days to present its case to the jury, suggesting the trial may last at least three weeks.

Tom Barnes31 July 2018 13:50

Several protesters have gathered outside the courtroom where Mr Manafort's trial is set to begin in around an hour's time.

Tom Barnes31 July 2018 14:04

The charges included in former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's indictment from 31 October 2017 had nothing to do with politics, but politics cannot be avoided by either special prosecutor Robert Mueller nor Mr Manafort's legal teams. 

Experts have said Mr Mueller, leading the FBI investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign team members and Russian officials during the 2016 US election, may have indicted Mr Mueller on the counts of fraud in order to bring out other information related to the campaign team's operations and possibly the president himself. 

The trial also has some asking if it is the first step in what could be a long road through Congress to impeach Mr Trump. 

Mythili Sampathkumar31 July 2018 14:34


Jury selection in Mr Manafort's trial is set to begin in just about 10 minutes. It will not be broadcast, likely in order to protect the identity of potential and chosen jurors. 

Both sides will look for jurors to weigh in impartially on the several counts in his indictment, issued at the end of October when Mr Manafort had turned himself over to the FBI. 

The man he was charged with was Rick Gates, his deputy on the campaign from June to August 2016. Mr Gates was also his longtime business partner and stayed on the campaign well into Mr Trump's transition period to the White House.

What could prove difficult for Mr Manafort and his legal team: Mr Gates already pleaded guilty to the charges outlined in the indictment and is said to be cooperating with Mr Mueller's team. 

Read the full indictment here: 

Mythili Sampathkumar31 July 2018 14:50

Though the trial is focused on Mr Manafort's alleged financial crimes, politics will be tough to avoid in and out of the courtroom. 

The president has been calling the FBI and Mr Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between his 2016 campaign team and Russian officials a "witch hunt" on numerous occasions - 101 times on his Twitter account since January 2017 to be exact.

However, this morning, Mr Trump appeared to change his tune a bit when he claimed "collusion is not a crime" 

Mythili Sampathkumar31 July 2018 15:42

At the start of jury selection, the judge in Mr Manafort's case is TS Ellis has left some open-ended matters. 

He has yet to rule on a motion from the businessman's legal team trying to limit the number of exhibits the government - Mr Mueller's team - could use in establishing the nature of their client's work for the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian politicians.

He did say to Mr Mueller's team, however: "I do not want a data dump into the record". 

Selection of the 12 jurors could end today but may continue into tomorrow. 

Mythili Sampathkumar31 July 2018 15:57

The trial which begins today in the Washington DC suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, is expected to last three weeks with another trial schedule to follow in September. 

The next trial will face related charges, but in the US District Court of the District of Columbia. 

Mythili Sampathkumar31 July 2018 16:05

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