Prosecutors: Paul Manafort believed he was above the law

Cheryl Sanders
August 1, 2018

The trial of Donald Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, has begun in Virginia.

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 Russian Federation at all.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is shown in a court room sketch, as he sits in federal court on the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. July 31, 2018.

But the broader implications are unmistakable.

Jury selection began Tuesday morning at the district courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Gates also worked as an aide on Trump's campaign.

It's the first of two trials Manafort will go through. One of those companies has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the allegations in federal court in Washington. "Obviously, that's very risky for him".

Manafort has a second trial scheduled for September in the District of Columbia.

A Manafort conviction would give momentum to Mueller, who has indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies since the probe started 14 months ago.

Zehnle said Manafort trusted others to keep track of the millions of dollars he was earning from his Ukrainian political work.

Jurors are expected to see photographs of his Mercedes-Benz and of his Hampton property putting green and swimming pool. Andres' questions appeared aimed at establishing the political work Manafort was doing in Ukraine for the Party of Regions, and that Devine was being paid by Manafort.

Lawyers have tangled over how much jurors will hear of his overseas political work, particularly about his ties to Russian Federation and other wealthy political figures.

Prosecutors also accuse him of lying to USA banks to obtain real estate loans in a bid to maintain a lavish lifestyle after his client, former pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, fell from power in 2014 and the money stopped. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist.

"This case is about taxes and trust", defence attorney Thomas Zehnle told jurors. While many in the courtroom laughed, including Manafort's lawyers, the defendant himself did not.

Throughout Devine's testimony, Greg Andres, the lawyer arguing for special counsel Robert Mueller's team, asked questions about Devine's work in Ukraine with Manafort.

Prosecutors say they will introduce evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a role on the Republican campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration that 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. It is the first trial arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 US presidential election.

Manafort's attorney Thomas Zenhle contended in the defense's opening statement that his client never meant to deceive US authorities about his income or his foreign bank accounts.

On Tuesday Trump tweeted that "collusion is not a crime", as the trial kicked off.

Prosecutors made no reference to Trump in their opening statement nor discussed in any way Manafort's leadership of the Trump campaign, or the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Russian Federation and the president's associates.

Other reports by iNewsToday