Paul Manafort’s bank fraud trial begins in Virginia

Paul Manafort's bank fraud trial begins in Virginia

July 31 (UPI) — The highly-publicized trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, one figure involved in the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, started in Virginia Tuesday as attorneys began jury selection.

Manafort is charged with bank fraud, conspiracy, preparing false tax returns and failing to disclose foreign income. The indictment says he and associate Rick Gates moved money from Ukraine through foreign bank accounts to conceal it from the Internal Revenue Service.

If convicted on all 18 counts, Manafort could receive 305 years in prison. Prosecutors, though, are recommending 8 to 10 years.

Special counsel Robert Mueller said he will need about three weeks to try the case, which accuses Manafort of lying to banks to get more than $20 million in loans.

As campaign manager, Manafort was responsible for all aspects of Trump’s White House bid, including shoring up delegate support.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, who’s hearing the case, has previously questioned how Manafort’s fraud charges relate to Mueller’s investigation into purported Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“I don’t see what relation this indictment has with what the special counsel is authorized to investigate,” Ellis said at a hearing in May. “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 or lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”

Trump has called Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling, which includes potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, a “witch hunt.”

Prosecutors have said they don’t plan to offer evidence related to the Russia case, and that references to Manafort’s association with the Trump campaign will be limited.

Last week, Ellis granted Mueller’s request to give immunity to five witnesses expected to testify at Manafort’s trial, but denied prosecutors’ request to protect their identities.

Mueller’s team requested the immunity, saying the witnesses refused to testify or would refuse to answer certain questions if not given protection.

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