by Olivia Lapioli
Robert Muller, an attorney for Paul Manafort needs more time to review the fraud case. The case is unfolding as a “follow the money” chase in which prosecutors argue that Manafort’s desire of wealth financed by millions of dollars in profits from a once profiting business eventually exceeded his means. However Thomas Ellis (The man presiding over the Manafort trial that has been a vocal presence in the courtroom) claimed “Mr. Manafort is not on trial for having a lavish lifestyle,”
Prosecutors insist that Manafort’s lifestyle is integral to their argument that once his lobbying income dried up, he turned to criminal schemes and paid for his life of luxury with wire transfers from accounts hidden from the Internal Revenue Service.
“It’s important for his whole legal strategy,” Don Goldberg said. “If he can’t get a conviction, not only does it undermine the credibility of the entire investigation, but it also sends a signal to other targets that the cases against them are even less likely to succeed.”
Another guilty plea came from Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates, who was initially indicted alongside Manafort, his longtime mentor and business partner, before he began cooperating with muller probe earlier this year. Gate’s testimony and cross-examination will likely be a dramatic centerpiece of the Virginia trial.
Last week, the special counsel’s team told U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III that they plan to use testimony from 35 witnesses, including IRS, FBI and Treasury Department agents, to show how Manafort made tens of millions of dollars as an unregistered foreign lobbyist, channeling the income into offshore accounts and then using it to buy luxury cars, houses, jewelry and even New York Yankees season tickets, all while lying to tax and banking officials about his earnings and wealth. Ellis told potential jurors he expects the case to last three weeks.
If convicted on all counts, 69-year-old Manafort faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars. He has denied all the charges against him and the defense has signaled that it will attempt to shatter the credibility of the government’s star witness, former Manafort associate Rick Gates, who has cut a plea deal with Mueller and is expected to take the stand next week. While the trial is following the classic contours of a tax case, it is also taking place in a rarely politicized environment due to Manafort’s former association with the President.
Though the White House argues that the case has nothing to do with Trump, it is also ironic that Manafort, who masterminded the delegate strategy for a man who vowed in 2016 to “drain the swamp,” is being portrayed as one of the capital quagmire’s most debased big beasts.
(Aaron P. Bernstein Reuters)