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Manafort on trial: Jury hears of lavish spending on luxury clothes

02 August 2018

Chad Day and Eric Tucker, The Associated Press •.

Judge T.S. Ellis was not a fan of the prosecution's focus on Manafort's lavish lifestyle, and would often cut off questioning if it delved too into the details of the luxury items Manafort was purchasing, allegedly with income he failed to disclose on federal forms and money he wired from foreign bank counts that he didn't report to the US government.

Kathleen Manafort departs from U.S. District Court following 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 of Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., July 31, 2018.

Mr. Trump emphasized that the charges against Mr. Manafort have nothing to do with possible collusion between Russians and Trump campaign officials, and he called the investigation "a hoax". Mueller was not present in the courtroom. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist. The witness accounts were also meant to contradict Manafort's lawyers, who have signaled they will pin blame for any illegal conduct on his longtime deputy, Rick Gates. Prosecutors questioned veteran political consultant Daniel Rabin about the work he did for Manafort. "That's what Rick Gates was being paid to do".

Gates, who has agreed to work with the federal prosecutors, was expected to be the government's star witness.

Gates, a longtime Manafort deputy who also worked in a senior role in the Trump campaign, had initially been charged alongside Manafort, but in February announced he would plead guilty to charges of conspiracy against the USA and lying to federal authorities. Some legal analysts saw the move as a potential attempt to stop the defense, which has attempted to pin any wrongdoing inside Manafort's company on Gates, from moving the focus of the trial from Manafort to his former subordinate.

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In this morning's Twitter tirade, Trump suggested the feds have it in for Manafort, treated him worse than they did Al Capone in the 30's. The added evidence also appears to include documents related to bank accounts in Cyprus. On multiple properties he owned, Manafort spent more than $3 million with SP&C Home Improvement Inc. from 2010 to 2014 on home improvements, including dining room and kitchen renovations.

"All this document shows is that Mr. Manafort had a lavish lifestyle".

The prosecution called witnesses to hammer home the point. Manafort was the store's only customer to pay for suits using wire transfers from foreign accounts.

Defense lawyers also sought to address head-on Manafort's wealth and the images of a gaudy lifestyle that jurors are expected to see during the trial.

The prosecution's strategy may be complicated by judge Ellis' restrictive perimeter on evidence.

"It isn't a crime to have a lot of money and be profligate in your spending", U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said.

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But it was clear from the outset that the case would not address that question: Prosecutors did not once reference Manafort's work for the Trump campaign nor mention Mueller's broader and ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. The way Trump sees it, Manafort's prosecution is the product of a "rigged witch hunt" by Mueller's team to discredit his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton.

"There was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!"

He faces a second trial in September on conspiracy charges.

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

A Manafort conviction would give momentum to Mueller, who has indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies since his probe started 14 months ago.

Weissmann previously prosecuted several high-profile federal cases, including one against the Arthur Andersen accounting firm that was overturned by the Supreme Court 9-0.

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Manafort on trial: Jury hears of lavish spending on luxury clothes