Paul Manafort’s trial is a test for special counsel Robert Mueller

Mueller testifies before Congress in 2013

While the main areas of Mueller's investigation are Russia's actions during the 2016 presidential election and any attempts by Trump to obstruct justice, none of those topics are expected to come up in Manafort's trial.

On Tuesday morning, he was set to travel about 100 yards, from the Alexandria Detention Center to the Albert V Bryan courthouse in Virginia, for the first day of his trial on multiple felony charges including tax fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy.

Manafort's defense team has filed a flurry of motions - to suppress evidence gathered from a Virginia storage unit, to challenge the mandate of the special counsel and to delay the trial - almost all of which it has lost so far.

To avoid paying hefty taxes, prosecutors say, they set up secret shell companies and offshore accounts to funnel their Ukrainian proceeds disguised as "loans" to US accounts to buy multimillion-dollar properties and luxury goods. That fact could compel someone previously or now close to the president who knows of any illegal activity to come clean or act as a co-operating witness if they have information relevant to Mueller's Russian Federation probe.

The trial, starting with selection of a 12-member jury, coincides with growing speculation that Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen may cooperate with federal investigators against the president.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to report foreign bank accounts. He pleaded not guilty to these allegations, and the case is scheduled to go to trial in mid-September. But federal judges overseeing both cases have upheld Mueller's authority to investigate and prosecute Manafort.

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

The luxurious lifestyle was funded by Manafort's political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine's president in 2014.

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The indictment against Manafort says $75 million flowed through offshore accounts controlled by Manafort and his former business partner Rick Gates.

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. Prosecutors say they may call as many as 35 witnesses, including five who have immunity agreements.

"He's not Manafort's brain, but he knows Manafort's brain", said Patrick Cotter, a former prosecutor, who worked on the conviction of John Gotti.

Mr Manafort took over as chairman of the Trump campaign in May 2016 and aimed to present a more thoughtful candidate, who stuck to scripts instead of ad-libbing in campaign rallies.

Manafort has spent the past month in prison in Alexandria outside Washington after having his house arrest and $10 million bail revoked by a federal judge for allegedly tampering with witnesses in another pending case.

The indictment unveiled when Gates was a co-defendant described his "assistance" in Manafort's alleged illegal acts, from disguising income from Ukraine as loans, to allegedly misleading accountants about foreign bank accounts that they should have disclosed to the government. Prosecutors will also argue that Manafort fraudulently obtained millions more in bank loans, including during his time on the campaign.

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.

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