Monday, 10 December, 2018

Manafort Drops Appeal of Civil Case Against Mueller

TPM Illustration TPM Illustration
Gerardo Duncan | 31 July, 2018, 15:41

Although the charges have nothing to do with Mueller's primary goal of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election including possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the stakes are extremely high for both the president and the special counsel.

Mueller is fighting Manafort's request for the court to exclude more than 50 trial exhibits that relate to his political consulting work in Ukraine between 2005 and 2014.

Although the case against Manafort has little to do with his time running the president's campaign, it will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence Mueller's team has spent the year accumulating.

It's expected to be rich with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into Manafort's pocket.

The charges all came about through the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election, led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

Judge T.S. Ellis will preside in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

"Perhaps he believes that he's done nothing wrong, and because he's done nothing wrong, he's unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever - even if it's a lesser crime", said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor. And they won't learn that Manafort's co-defendant in the Washington case is a business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, who lives in Russia and who US authorities assert has connections to Russian intelligence.

Ellis has since ruled that Mueller is acting within the scope of his investigation in pursuing charges against Manafort.

In recent days, prosecutors have submitted a list of hundreds of exhibits they plan to introduce at trial, including financial documents and photographs of luxury cars and real estate properties Manafort bought with his Ukrainian income. His longtime business partner Rick Gates faces numerous same charges.

Veteran criminal defense attorney Shanlon Wu, who is also not associated with the Manafort defense team, tells ABC that in his opinion the government's strategy is more focused at this point on avoiding any do-overs.

On the eve of his Virginia trial, it appears former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his legal team are starting to cut their losses. 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. Mueller's original mandate was to investigate not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, but also any other crimes arising from the probe.

The trial is expected to drag on for at least three weeks, with jury selection for the case beginning on Tuesday. Prosecutors will also argue that Manafort fraudulently obtained millions more in bank loans, including during his time on the campaign.

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.

Manafort, a veteran Republican political consultant, served as chairman of Trump's presidential election campaign for three months in 2016 before being forced to step down amid questions about his lobbying work in Ukraine.

But in June, his bail terms were revoked and he was jailed to await trial after it was alleged that he tried to contact and sway two government witnesses by phone.

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