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Andrew McCarthy: DOJ Passed on Manafort's Prosecution Until Now

Andrew McCarthy: DOJ Passed on Manafort's Prosecution Until Now

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018.

A jury has been seated in the trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on tax evasion and bank fraud charges.

He faces twelve different counts, all felonies, which include conspiracy against the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements about being a foreign agent, false statements to the Department of Justice, tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and more.

But Mr Manafort quickly faced allegations that he had not disclosed millions of dollars he received for consultancy work he carried out in Ukraine for its then pro-Russian president.

Lawyers for Manafort countered by painting Manafort as a victim of his employees, including former colleague Rick Gates, who is cooperating with Mueller's probe.

The pool of jurors will face questions from both sides and U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III as they try to weed out potential prejudice in what has become a highly publicized and politically divisive investigation.

Mr Asonye said Mr Manafort created "bogus" loans, falsified documents and lied to his tax preparer and bookkeeper to hide the money, which he obtained from Ukrainian oligarchs through a series of shell company transfers and later from fraudulently obtained bank loans in the US.

In all, prosecutors say, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts Manafort and Gates set up.

Mueller was appointed by the U.S. Justice Department's No. 2 official a year ago to take over an FBI investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was unlawful co-ordination between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

The judge told potential jurors the trial would last no more than three weeks.

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His lawyers are seeking to exclude evidence at trial that details Mr Manafort's political lobbying work in Ukraine, saying it would be "irrelevant, prejudicial and unnecessarily time-consuming".

"It's all documented", said Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor who is now a partner at the Dorsey & Whitney law firm.

After several hours of discussions with individual jurors, prosecutors from the special counsel's office and lawyers for Mr. Manafort rejected about 20 potential jurors.

It's the first trial to result from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

This is the first of two trials for Manafort. Gates, who cut a plea deal with Mueller earlier this year, is expected to testify against his former mentor.

McCarthy said Tuesday that the charges likely were sought in order to obtain information about the Trump campaign. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist. Manafort left Trump's campaign soon afterwards.

But even a presidential pardon may not help.

Manafort lived an "extravagant lifestyle" fueled by millions of dollars in "secret income" that he earned from his lobbying in Ukraine, said Uzo Asonye, a prosecutor working on the case with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. "The choice there is serving time in a NY state prison like Rikers Island, as opposed to a plush federal prison".

At the same time, Mueller's team continues to press the president's legal team for an interview with the commander in chief. An acquittal would support efforts by Trump and his allies to portray the probe as a "witch hunt".


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