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Manafort is first ex-Trump aide on trial in Russian Federation probe

31 July 2018

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. Or will special counsel Robert Mueller be handed a defeat in his team's first trial since his appointment more than a year ago? The president criticized Mueller by name over the weekend and continues to refer to the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference as a "witch hunt" and "an illegal scam".

The trial is a major test for Mueller's team, which is facing a fresh onslaught of attacks from President Donald Trump and Republicans, who are using lies and exaggerations to blast Mueller and his investigators as biased against the president. 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.

Short of an acquittal, the best hope for Manafort to avoid jail time remains a presidential pardon. He is charged with multiple crimes for allegedly failing to report his Ukrainian income, tax evasion and bank fraud.

Gates has since pleaded guilty and agreed to help prosecutors with their case, as one of the government's star witnesses.

"To the extent that public opinion affects the Mueller probe, he'll then have to ask himself whether he needs to change course", said Barak Cohen, a former federal corruption prosecutor.

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"The documents establish the breadth of the work that Manafort performed, including commissioning television ads, writing speeches and carrying on campaign-related activities", read the filing, Bloomberg states.

In recent days, prosecutors have submitted a list of hundreds of exhibits they plan to introduce at trial, including financial documents and photographs of luxury cars and real estate properties Manafort bought with his Ukrainian income.

Among them is former Manafort associate Rick Gates, who in February pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and lying to investigators. So far, 32 people and three companies have been charged by Mr Mueller. Investigators have since looked into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

The focus on Manafort's personal dealings, rather than Russian Federation, aren't surprising considering the Special Counsel indictment didn't mention the Kremlin, the 2016 presidential election or collusion a single time.

He faces two criminal trials, the first in Alexandria, Virginia, and another later in Washington.

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The filing comes a day before Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges is set to begin.

Gates is also expected to play a key role in Manafort's second trial scheduled for September.

"You really don't care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud.What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump of lead to his prosecution or impeachment", Ellis said.

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.

If Manafort is acquitted, "it will benefit President Trump tremendously, because it will cast into doubt all of the legitimacy of the process that is occurring", said Joshua Dressler, a professor of criminal law and criminal procedure at Ohio State University.

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Manafort is first ex-Trump aide on trial in Russian Federation probe