Former Trump Campaign Chair Heads to Trial

TPM Illustration

It's a significant milestone for the probe, which began exactly two years ago as an Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Among the witnesses is Rick Gates, Manafort's deputy and co-defendant, who pleaded guilty this year and agreed to cooperate.

The filing was made in response to Mr. Manafort's efforts to prevent jurors from seeing more than 50 trial exhibits related to his political consulting work in the Ukraine between 2005 and 2014.

Mr Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty, faces 18 counts. It's the first trial resulting from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly sought to play down Manafort's connection to the president, yet the trial won't be entirely without references to the campaign.

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.

Paul Manafort speaks to the press during a news conference at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

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.

Much of the evidence prosecutors are putting forward is what lawyers call a "document case", i.e. the financial records showing where millions of dollars have traveled and whether or not those cash-flows were properly disclosed or subjected to taxes under federal law.

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It was two years after Yanukovych was ousted from Ukraine that Gates and Manafort found themselves again in close proximity to ascendant power, when they joined (and for a three-month period Manafort led) Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

As president, Trump has downplayed Manafort's role in the campaign. However, the government is now recommending that Manafort serve 8 to 10 years if he is convicted. He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women", if they exist.

While jurors will be hearing painstaking detail about Manafort's finances, they won't be told about Manafort's other criminal case, in the nation's capital, where he faces charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and lying to the government.

Yesterday, prosecutors said in court filings that they intend to prove that Mr Manafort earned more than $60m (€51m) lobbying for the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government and failed to report "a significant percentage" of that.

The tax and bank fraud trial in a Virginia federal court will be the first test of Mueller's ability to win a conviction of a former Trump aide.

He's been in jail since last month when the judge presiding over the Washington case revoked his bail for allegedly tampering with potential witnesses. At least five of the witnesses listed are testifying after receiving immunity.

Soon after, Mueller's office brought new charges against Manafort, adding counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to his case in the District of Columbia.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks. He has also put distance between himself and Mr Manafort's charges, saying in a tweet: "This is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign".

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