Witnesses in Manafort Trial Advised Not to Say 'Trump'

Prosecutors reportedly told them not to bring up the president or his 2016 campaign
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2018 4:12 PM CDT
Witnesses in Manafort Trial Advised Not to Say 'Trump'
This courtroom sketch depicts Paul Manafort, fourth from right, standing with his lawyers in front of US district Judge T.S. Ellis III, center rear, and the selected jury, during the jury selection of his trial at the Alexandria Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, July 31, 2018.   (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

It's Day 1 of Paul Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges; a jury of six men and six women was sworn in Tuesday and both sides delivered opening statements, CNN reports. During their statement, prosecutors called the former Trump campaign chairman a "shrewd" liar who earned millions in "secret income" from lobbying in Ukraine, coming up with a scheme to avoid paying taxes on that income so he could continue to live an "extravagant lifestyle," CNN reports. (His $15,000 ostrich jacket was specifically mentioned.) Meanwhile, the defense pinned the blame on longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates, saying Manafort's trust in him was "misplaced." Gates, who was also once an official with the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to participating in Manafort's alleged financial conspiracy and is expected to testify against him. More covering surrounding the trial:

  • Despite Manafort's ties to now-President Trump and the fact that the charges stem from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the White House has repeatedly pointed out that the charges do not directly relate to campaign activity. "The judge has very strictly instructed no mention of Paul Manafort's role in the Trump campaign, no mention of Trump, Russia or collusion," Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News Tuesday. "This trial obviously centers on matters that have nothing to do with the campaign."

  • Indeed, while preparing witnesses for testifying in the trial, prosecutors have advised them not to mention Trump or anything related to his 2016 campaign, ABC News reports. That's because the judge in the case issued an order agreeing with Manafort's defense team that if Manafort's ties to the Trump campaign are brought up, jurors could be unduly influenced. One potential witness says prosecutors even told him not to mention where Manafort's New York condo is located, because it's in Trump Tower.
  • The judge has also ordered the prosecution not to mention the terms "collusion" or "Russians" during the trial.
  • So what are the charges about, if not Russia? Vox has an explainer on pretty much everything related to the case, including why there will be two trials. Similarly, New York offers an "everything you need to know" rundown.

  • CNN calls the trial the "biggest test yet" for Mueller and his team, but the Hill notes it's Manafort who's taking a huge gamble. Mueller needs a conviction on just one count to send Manafort to prison, and by going to trial instead of taking a plea, Manafort is running a big risk, though he likely hopes Trump will pardon him if it comes to that. "Manafort is in the worst possible legal position of having to 'run the tables' by not only beating 18 counts in Virginia but then beating seven counts in a separate trial in Washington," writes Jonathan Turley. "He needs a sweep or nothing. That is quite a gamble and, frankly, Manafort is a bad bet."
  • Despite the fact that the charges don't directly relate to the actual subject of Mueller's investigation, Russian interference with the 2016 election, "Manafort has long been a central figure in that aspect of the probe, for some pretty obvious reasons—he spent years working for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine and was in debt to a Russian oligarch," writes Andrew Prokop at Vox. It's possible Mueller thinks Manafort has important information for the probe into possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russians and is hoping he'll flip; it's also possible he just found evidence of alleged wrongdoing and wants Manafort jailed.
  • Margaret Hartmann makes a similar point at New York, adding that Manafort also "attended the June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower. During his time on the Trump campaign, Manafort was in contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who prosecutors say had active ties to Russian intelligence." Of course, we won't hear about any of that at the trial.
  • As of this writing, the first witness had just taken the stand; CNN has live updates.
(More Paul Manafort stories.)

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