Jury selection to begin in Manafort trial

Hugh Fox
July 31, 2018

Paul Manafort on Tuesday will become the first of President Donald Trump's former aides to go on trial, accused of bank and tax fraud by federal investigators probing Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.

The trial marks the first court test for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump campaign ties to Russian Federation and related matters, and whose team is prosecuting Manafort.

As campaign manager, Manafort was responsible for all aspects of Trump's White House bid, including shoring up delegate support.

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Twelve jurors will be selected this week. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III will try to weed out potential prejudice in what has become a highly publicized and politically divisive investigation.

Instead, the trial will center on Manafort's Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president's campaign.

Prosecutors charge that Manafort used offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes on tens of millions of dollars earned as a political consultant overseas, and say he fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in loans from financial institutions. The indictment says he and associate Rick Gates moved money from Ukraine through foreign bank accounts to hide it from the Internal Revenue Service. Gates, who cut a plea deal with Mueller earlier this year, is expected to testify against his former mentor.

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Mueller's team said it would not present evidence at the trial in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, about possible campaign collusion with Russian Federation, potentially saving it for a second Manafort trial in Washington in September. That trial, set in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that the longtime political consultant acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the USA government. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The other 31 people charged have either pleaded guilty or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom.

Mueller's team added a few new items related to the loan Manafort allegedly obtained from Federal Savings Bank, run by Steve Calk, the banker interested in a Trump administration position.

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This is a developing story and will be updated.

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