Prosecutors advise witnesses in Manafort trial: Avoid the T-word

Charges of bank fraud and tax evasion have been floating around for some time against President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, but the Department of Justice passed on his prosecution a few years ago, National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy noted Tuesday.

Prosecutors want to show memos, campaign ad scripts, political rally plans and other work Manafort did in an effort to prove that he made over $60million off the Party of Regions and its leader, Viktor Yanukovych, between 2005 and 2014.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said in his opening statement in Manafort's trial in Virginia that the former Trump associated opened more than 30 bank accounts in three foreign countries.

Manafort's work for the pro-Russian government in Ukraine plays a central role in the allegations against him, since prosecutors say he concealed income from that work from USA tax officials and allegedly laundered more than $18 million in proceeds.

"When a prosecutor looks into those dealings and uncovers evidence of criminal culpability", said Stanford law professor David Alan Sklansky, "it doesn't make sense to ask him to avert his eyes". Still, Reid points out that the pardon power is broad enough for Mr. Trump to pardon Manafort at any time for the crimes he has been charged with in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

"It would also exclude virtually every exhibit containing the name of several key government witnesses, thereby preventing the jury from hearing evidence that corroborates the witness's expected testimony and demonstrated the witness' credibility", they wrote.

Judge T.S. Ellis III offered some humorous encouragement to the jurors chosen for the trial, which is expected to last about three weeks.

Mr Manafort, who has been jailed for almost two months, wore a black suit and appeared fully engaged in his defence, whispering with his lawyers during jury selection and scribbling notes as the prosecution began its opening statement.

The trial marks the first court test for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump campaign ties to Russian Federation and related matters, and whose team is prosecuting Manafort. There are also four alternates, three women and a man.

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The Virginia trial will be followed by a second one in Washington in September in which Mr Manafort is charged with money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

This is the first of two trials for Manafort.

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.

Manafort's defense team has filed a flurry of motions - to suppress evidence gathered from a Virginia storage unit, to challenge the mandate of the special counsel and to delay the trial - almost all of which it has lost so far.

Manafort's defense strategy is still unknown.

He warned jurors not to believe Gates when he testifies against Manafort.

As for Mueller's bank fraud allegations, Zehnle said that Manafort was "open" with the outside professionals who helped to facilitate loans, about why he was seeking the money and what he planned to spend it on.

One potential witness was even told to be cautious when speaking of Manafort's NY residence - he owns a condominium in Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, sources told ABC News. It's the first trial related to charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.

"The foundation of the special counsel's case rests squarely on this witness", Zehnle said. "They are more anxious about protecting the trial from having a mistrial or having it overturned on appeal than provoking a hold-out person over Trump", Wu explained.

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