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What does Mueller have? Manafort trial offers glimpse

31 July 2018

The indictment was brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director who is looking into Russian meddling in the presidential election, but the charges are not connected to Manafort's time as Trump's campaign chairman.

But the broader implications are unmistakable.

He said Trump could help the public understand what is at stake in Mueller's investigation, which both Trump and Caputo have called a "witch hunt" aimed at ending his presidency. That leaves Manafort, 69, facing charges that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

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"It seems to me we're seeing deeper ties that Manafort has had financially with his business deals in the Ukraine and with Russian Federation", said Shanlon Wu, a former lawyer for Manafort associate Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in February and is aiding Mueller's probe. The president seized on those words and said Judge Ellis "is really something special, I hear from many standpoints". Manafort faces related charges in a federal court in the District, where his trial will begin in September.

Manafort was indicted along with Gates in Mueller's wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of co-operating with the government. Investigators have since looked into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

On Monday, prosecutors said in court filings that they meant to prove Manafort earned more than $60 million lobbying for the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government and failed to report "a significant percentage" of that. Manafort faces 32 counts of filing false tax returns and bank fraud stemming from his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

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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.

Short of an acquittal, the best hope for Manafort to avoid jail time remains a presidential pardon. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist. Prosecutors plan to present evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a job on the campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration. The special counsel says it will need three weeks to try the case. Gates falsely claimed in a letter to a bank that a $300,000 delinquency on Manafort's credit card was a loan to him that Gates meant to pay back, the prosecutors alleged.

Manafort filed the initial lawsuit in January against Mueller, the Justice Department and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel. Trump denies any collusion. Judge T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court, presiding over the Virginia case, wrote in June that "it is plausible, indeed ultimately persuasive here, to argue that the investigation and prosecution has some relevance to the election which occurred months if not years after the alleged misconduct".

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"When a prosecutor looks into those dealings and uncovers evidence of criminal culpability", said Stanford law professor David Alan Sklansky, "it doesn't make sense to ask him to avert his eyes".

What does Mueller have? Manafort trial offers glimpse