Key players in USA case versus ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Key players in USA case versus ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Although the charges have nothing to do with Mueller's primary goal of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election including possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the stakes are extremely high for both the president and the special counsel.

The trial in Alexandria, Virginia, will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence Mueller's team has spent the year accumulating. Manafort and Gates then funneled millions to offshore bank accounts, which they failed to disclose to the USA government, in the Grenadines, Seychelles and Cyprus. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, including potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

That task comes as the president and his lawyer-spokesman, Rudy Giuliani, have intensified their attempts to undermine the Mueller investigation in the court of public opinion and as the president continues to waffle on whether he'll sit for a private interview with prosecutors. 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.

Trump has repeatedly denounced the special counsel's investigation as a politically motivated "witch hunt" and denied there was any collusion with Moscow to defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

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. But in February, Gates agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation and pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and lying to investigators.

Manafort remained defiant, vowing to fight the charges.

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.

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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.

Mueller's team has indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies, including the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials. The president seized on those words and said Judge Ellis "is really something special, I hear from many standpoints".

It's what may not come up much during the trial in Alexandria, Va., that will draw attention from all over the world: Manafort's work for candidate Donald Trump for a critical period in 2016 when Trump clinched the Republican nomination for president. He'll face another set of charges in Washington, D.C.in September - money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.

The Virginia trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

Given the strength of the evidence, however, some legal experts have suggested Mr Manafort may be banking on an eventual pardon from Mr Trump, who has called his former campaign chairman a "nice guy" who has been treated unfairly.

"The depth of the charges against Paul Manafort is such that at some point, the best decision for him will be to try to cut a deal", said Lisa Griffin, a former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at Duke University.

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