Former Trump campaign chief goes on trial for bank, tax fraud

Tad Devine in New York in 2016. He was chief political strategist for Sen. Bernie Sanders, during the 2016 presidential race

Tad Devine in New York in 2016. He was chief political strategist for Sen. Bernie Sanders, during the 2016 presidential race

The first trial of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe begins on Tuesday with Paul Manafort, a former chairman of U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign, facing charges that he hid tens of millions of dollars earned in Ukraine in offshore accounts and defrauded banks for loans.

According to the report, special counsel Robert Mueller's case is focused exclusively on accusations that Manafort committed financial crimes, ranging from tax evasion to bank fraud, that have no direct ties to his campaign work. In this case, he's also been charged with five counts of "subscribing to false United States individual income tax returns" and four counts of "failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts".

While prosecutors have said they will not present evidence of collusion at this trial, they are seeking to provide details of Manafort's work in Ukraine, raising the possibility that new information about his Russian connections could emerge.

He faces additional charges in district court in Washington DC.

The judge overseeing that trial, Berman Jackson, revoked Manafort's bail last month and ordered him to await trial from a jail cell.

Prosecutors plan to produce almost three dozen witnesses during the trial, including Manafort's former associate Richard Gates, who is cooperating with the government after pleading guilty to lesser charges in February. Mueller himself was not expected to play a high-profile role in the court proceedings.

This case is the more interesting of the two, thanks in large part to Judge Ellis.

Trump has repeatedly denounced the special counsel's investigation as a politically motivated "witch hunt" and denied there was any collusion with Moscow to defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

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Seven prosecutors from Mueller's office were expected to feature prominently in the trial, including veteran government attorneys Andrew Weissmann and Greg Andres, who returned to the government from private practice to work on Mueller's probe.

An acquittal, on the other hand, could be seen as a win for Trump as he continues to try to undermine the work of Mueller's team of prosecutors.

A star government witness will be Richard Gates, a former deputy Trump campaign chairman and former Manafort business associate.

If there's an acquittal, however, that likely hurts the Mueller probe in the court of public opinion, fuelling calls for his investigation to wrap up and, in an extreme scenario, emboldening Trump to fire the special counsel. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Dennis Raico and James Brennan worked at Federal Savings Bank, a Chicago lender that extended Manafort $16 million in loans against his NY real estate holdings. Other targets in the probe might also feel less pressure to co-operate in exchange for immunity. Federal prosecutors accused him of witness tampering after the witnesses revealed text messages to the FBI.

He is scheduled to go on trial in the U.S. capital in September on separate charges brought by Mueller of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to register as an agent of a foreign government. He will testify as a fact witness in the trial.

President Donald Trump listens during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the East Room of the White House, July 30, 2018. He was Manafort's top client until he was removed from power and fled to Russian Federation in 2014. Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, after which prosecutors say Manafort used money from his American real estate "as collateral to obtain loans", securing more than $20 million by lying about his income and debts.

The Virginia trial is Manafort's first trial.

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