Paul Manafort, left, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, walks with this wife Kathleen Manafort, as they arrive at the Alexandria Federal Courthouse in March.
Manafort’s attorney Thomas Zenhle contended in the defense’s opening statement that his client never meant to deceive USA authorities about his income or his foreign bank accounts.
Lawyers representing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shifted blame to their client’s former business associate, Rick Gates, in the first trial related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The government’s lawyers argued that liar was Manafort, a man they alleged had been living an opulent lifestyle, as if he was “above the law”.
Manafort faces charges that he hid tens of millions of dollars earned in Ukraine in offshore accounts and defrauded banks for loans. In one case, Manafort even purchased a $15,000 jacket “made from an ostrich”. “It’s a lot, and Paul Manafort trusted that Rick Gates was keeping track of it”, Zehnle said. He’s on trial for bank fraud and tax evasion charges. The nine bank fraud and conspiracy charges alone carry maximum sentences of 30 years each, and Judge Ellis noted in April that Mr Manafort could be facing the rest of his life behind bars if convicted.
“All of this was willful”, Asonye said.
Manafort’s defense strategy is still unknown.
Manafort’s lawyers presented a very different picture.
Prosecutors also questioned FBI Special Agent Matthew Mikuska, an 11-year veteran of the agency who executed a search warrant on Manafort’s Alexandria condominium last year.
The other 31 people charged have either pleaded guilty or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. He is expected to be the government’s star witness.
Zehnle described Gates as the “point person” for Manafort’s consultancy on tax and financial issues.
Manafort, attorney Tom Zehnle told jurors, made a mistake in “placing his trust in the wrong person” who was now willing to say anything to keep himself out of trouble.
As campaign chairman, Manafort was responsible for all aspects of Trump’s White House bid, including shoring up delegate support.
Daniel Rabin: He’s a Democratic political consultant, and partner at Rabin Strasberg Media. Bernie Sanders, Al Gore and John Kerry. For what it’s worth, Manafort appears to have done far more than Capone to disrupt the global world order, including helping to prop up ghoulish Russia-backed puppets in Ukraine.
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. Manafort has filed a motion to have details of that work excluded from trial. “There were emails sometimes throughout the night”.
He asked Manafort to stand up and face the jury, calling him “a good man” and a talented political consultant.
Ellis has scolded members of Mueller’s team before, asserting back in May that the team was really interested in targeting President Trump. “They reflect a state of mind and an intent to obstruct justice”.