Manafort trial to be more about lifestyle than Russia
The trial of President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman will open this week with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultant’s pocket.This case will not feature any evidence of "Russian collusion" Mueller's original mandate. Some have suggested it will be like a trial of the Kardashians without the sex appeal. I get teh impression that Mueller is attempting to extort testimony about the President by pushing a trial on unrelated matters.
What’s likely to be missing: answers about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, or really any mention of Russia at all.
Paul Manafort’s financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, will center on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president’s campaign.
Prosecutors in Manafort’s case have said they may call 35 witnesses, including five who have immunity agreements, as they try to prove that he laundered more than $30 million in Ukrainian political consulting proceeds and concealed the funds from the IRS.
Jurors are expected to see photographs of his Mercedes-Benz and of his Hampton property putting green and swimming pool. There’s likely to be testimony, too, about tailored Beverly Hills clothing, high-end antiques, rugs and art and New York Yankees seasons tickets.
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.
Lawyers have tangled over how much jurors will hear of his overseas political work, particularly about his ties to Russia and other wealthy political figures.
At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will preside over the trial, warned prosecutors to restrain themselves, noting the current “antipathy” toward Russia and how “most people in this country don’t distinguish between Ukrainians and Russians.” He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others “at a cocktail party with scantily clad women,” if they exist.
The trial will afford the public its first glimpse of a defense that so far has focused less on the substance of the allegations than on Mueller’s authority to bring the case in the first place. At one point, his defense lawyers sued Mueller and the Justice Department, saying they’d overstepped their bounds by bringing a prosecution untethered to the core questions of Mueller’s investigation — whether Russia worked with the Trump campaign to tip the election.