Trial Begins for Trump’s Ex-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort

Defense Attorney Kevin Downing arrives at U.S. District Court for the opening day of Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian medd

The highly-publicized trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, one figure involved in the Justice Department's Russian Federation investigation, started in Virginia Tuesday as attorneys began jury selection.

The decision to drop the appeal comes one day before Manafort's criminal trial is scheduled to begin in Virginia federal court.

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.

Prosecutors want to show memos, campaign ad scripts, political rally plans and other work Manafort did in an effort to prove that he made over $60million off the Party of Regions and its leader, Viktor Yanukovych, between 2005 and 2014.

They claim that when Mr Manafort's income from consulting and foreign lobbying dried up, he lied to banks to get loans to maintain his lavish spending.

As he started delivering his opening statement, Asonye earned a near-immediate rebuke from Judge T.S. Ellis, who told him not to tell jurors that "the evidence will show" that the allegations against Manafort are true. The nine bank fraud and conspiracy charges alone carry maximum sentences of 30 years each, and Ellis noted in April that Manafort could be facing the rest of his life behind bars if convicted.

Muller has spent the last 14 months building the case against Manafort with a mountain of evidence seized from Manafort's and Gates's homes, computers and electronic devices, as well as documents obtained from financial institutions.

Manafort, attorney Tom Zehnle told jurors, made a mistake in "placing his trust in the wrong person" who was now willing to say anything to keep himself out of trouble. There are 35 potential witnesses, many of them bankers and accountants expected to verify documents and speak to Manafort's alleged intent to violate the law. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

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Over the next three weeks a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, is expected to hear descriptions of his lavish lifestyle and Cypriot shell companies, his ties with Ukrainian oligarchs, and allegedly fraudulent property deals created to deceive the United States tax authorities.

The other 31 people charged have either pleaded guilty or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom.

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 materialised.

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.

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

Manafort's defense strategy is still unknown.

While prosecutors are not expected to address the question of possible collusion between Mr Trump and Russia, Mr Manafort's case is widely viewed as a test to the legitimacy of Mr Mueller's ongoing probe, which Mr Trump has continually dismissed as a "witch hunt".

It may not be about Russian Federation, but it will be held in the shadow of the collusion controversy that's long loomed over the White House.

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