Former Donald Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort Pleads Guilty In Robert Mueller Probe


Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States (Reuters)

WASHINGTON: 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will plead guilty to two criminal counts as part of a deal with prosecutors on Friday, court documents showed in what could be a blow to Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running probe of Russian election meddling.

As part of the deal, Manafort, 69, could be required to cooperate with Mueller’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Details of the deal were likely to emerge in a plea agreement hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) in federal court. Manafort would become the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller’s investigation, which has cast a shadow over Trump’s presidency.

It remains unclear if the deal will include Manafort’s cooperation with Mueller’s probe, dealing a blow to Trump ahead of congressional elections on Nov. 6.

Another approach would be for Manafort to plead guilty without cooperating in hopes of a presidential pardon. Trump has not said whether he would pardon Manafort, but the president has not publicly ruled it out.

Manafort will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Five other charges were dropped in the new court filing.

A Virginia jury convicted Manafort last month on bank and tax fraud charges.

Jury selection was due to begin on Monday in a second trial on charges including conspiring to launder money, conspiring to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent and witness tampering.

Manafort’s decision could be a blow to Trump, who last month praised his former aide for not entering into an agreement with prosecutors, as the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen had.

On Twitter on Aug. 22, Trump wrote: “Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal. Such respect for a brave man!”

According to the court filing, the charge of conspiracy against the United States includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and acting as an unregistered lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. The second count, for conspiracy to obstruct justice, concerns attempts to tamper with witnesses related to Manafort’s foreign lobbying.

Manafort’s conviction in Alexandria, Virginia, last month was at a trial arising from Mueller’s investigation. Trump has denied colluding with the Russians and the Russians have denied interfering.

Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner and the campaign’s deputy chairman, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation, later testifying against Manafort in Virginia. Gates may have been a prosecution witness in his Washington trial as well.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now representing Trump in the Russia probe, told Reuters on Friday that a guilty plea to avoid a second trial would not crush Manafort’s chances of receiving an eventual presidential pardon.

“It’s not going to hurt him if he pleads guilty. Usually it helps you get a pardon down the road. It shows you’ve admitted your guilt,” he said on Friday before a deal was announced. He declined further comment until after the hearing.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Donald Trump Says Ex-Aide Manafort A Good Man, Even As Jury Weighs Verdict


Trump has sidestepped a question on whether he would issue a presidential pardon for Manafort. (Reuters)

ALEXANDRIA, United States: 

Weighing in even as a Virginia jury deliberates for a second day, President Donald Trump on Friday called the bank and tax fraud trial of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort “very sad” and described the defendant a “very good person.”

Manafort’s trial in federal court in Alexandria is the first stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 15-month-old investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election.

In remarks to reporters at the White House, Trump again called Mueller’s investigation, which had cast a cloud over his presidency, a “rigged witch hunt,” but sidestepped a question about whether he would issue a presidential pardon for Manafort.

“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad, when you look at what’s going on there. I think it’s a very sad day for our country,” Trump said.

“He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

Trump made his comments while the jury of six women and six men were deliberating behind closed doors on Friday morning. The jurors met for about seven hours on Thursday without reaching a verdict on 18 criminal counts with which Manafort is charged.

As president, Trump has the power to pardon Manafort on the federal charges. He has already issued a series of pardons, including for a political ally, former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Asked by a reporter on Friday if he would pardon Manafort, Trump said, “I don’t talk about that now.”

The charges largely predate Manafort’s five months working on Trump’s campaign during a pivotal period in the 2016 presidential race, including three months as campaign chairman.

Manafort, 69, faces five counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of failing to disclose his offshore bank accounts and nine counts of bank fraud. If convicted on all counts, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Jurors in the trial are not sequestered but have been instructed not to watch news reports or talk to others about the matter.

It is unusual for a U.S. president to make comments about the character of a defendant in an ongoing trial and criticize the legal proceedings. But it was not the first time Trump has weighed in since the Manafort trial began on July 31. On the first day the jury heard testimony, Trump said Manafort had been treated worse than 1920s gangster Al Capone.

Trump has made previous comments criticizing various federal judges and courts and has been harshly critical of Mueller. On Friday, he accused Mueller of having “a lot of conflicts,” but said the special counsel should be allowed to finish a report on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

‘Human Nature’

Prohibitions on jurors reading about a case they are deciding are difficult to enforce in the smartphone era, said Jens David Ohlin, a professor of criminal law at Cornell University.

“We trust jurors to be on their best behavior and wall themselves off but that kind of goes against human nature,” Ohlin said.

“I think it was very ill-advised for the president to do this. He should have kept his mouth shut,” Ohlin added.

The prosecution could request a mistrial, but such a maneuver was very unlikely, Ohlin said.

Prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding from U.S. tax authorities $16 million in money he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle and then lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian income dried up and he needed cash.

“I think we are optimistic the case might end soon with some sort of verdict,” Judge T.S. Ellis said in open court after the jury resumed deliberations on Friday morning.

The judge made the comment before telling spectators including journalists that he did not want them running out of the courtroom while the jury announces its verdict on the various counts. He did not indicate he had inside knowledge of their deliberations.

The jury sent a note on Thursday afternoon asking Ellis four questions including one about defining “reasonable doubt.” In a criminal case, a jury must find a defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The jurors also asked Ellis about when someone must disclose a foreign bank account to the Treasury Department, about the definition of a “shelf company” – an inactive company often sold to people aiming to bypass the registration process – and about the exhibit list.

The judge also is due to hear arguments on Friday on a motion filed by seven news organizations seeking the names and addresses of the jurors and alternates, and for the court to unseal documents that have been filed but not made public, apparently related to a motion by the defense.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Jury To Weigh Manafort Fate For 2nd Day After Reasonable Doubt Surprise


Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for arraignment. (Reuters)

The jury in the bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will deliberate for a second day on Friday after asking questions that prompted speculation that a verdict may not be imminent.

Before wrapping up their first day of deliberations on Thursday, the jury sent the judge a note with four questions, including one about the law on disclosing foreign bank accounts and another seeking a definition for “reasonable doubt.”

It was the “reasonable doubt” question that caught some legal experts most by surprise as it suggested one or more jurors may be grappling with whether the prosecution met this standard of proof on certain counts.

“The fact that they are sending questions on reasonable doubt tells me that the group is divided,” said jury consultant Alexandra Rudolph. “There is at least one juror who has not decided the case and who is not convinced.”

While the general rule is that juries reach a verdict on Friday so they won’t have to return after the weekend, Rudolph said she now believed it was likely the trial would carry over into early next week.

Manafort faces five counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of failing to disclose his offshore bank accounts, and nine counts of bank fraud. If convicted on all the charges, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The jury, composed of six men and six women, is scheduled to gather again at 9:30 a.m. on Friday at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

The case is the first to go to trial stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, although the charges largely predate Manafort’s five months working on Donald Trump’s campaign.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

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Manafort Witness Says Bank CEO Coveted Cabinet Job, Pushed To Approve Loans


Paul Manafort faces 18 felony counts of bank fraud, tax fraud. (Reuters)

A Chicago bank chief pushed for $16 million in loans to Paul Manafort in return for help landing a post in the incoming Trump administration, a witness testified in the former Trump campaign chairman’s federal fraud trial testified on Friday.

Dennis Raico, a former Federal Savings Bank executive testifying under immunity, said the bank’s chief executive, Stephen Calk, was directly involved in granting the loans.

Manafort later asked the incoming administration to consider tapping Calk for secretary of the Army, according to testimony earlier in the week. Calk did not get the job. Raico said Calk had also asked about becoming Treasury secretary.

Raico was one of several witnesses scheduled for Friday as the trial resumed after a recess that lasted into the midafternoon. He and James Brennan, a Federal Savings executive, were both granted immunity against prosecution by Special Counsel Robert Mueller before testifying.

The witnesses were the latest in the government’s case against Manafort, who faces 18 felony counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose about 30 foreign bank accounts.

Four of Manafort’s felony counts involve the $16 million of loans prosecutors say were extended by Federal Savings in late 2016 and early 2017.

The bank and Calk, who was named an economic adviser to the Trump campaign in August 2016, did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, Raico testified that Calk asked him to call Manafort shortly after the Nov. 8, 2016, election, to see if he could be a candidate for the Treasury post.

Raico also described a July 27, 2016, meeting in which Calk made it clear that he would be interested in serving with Trump. The loan was approved the next day.

When asked by prosecutor Greg Andres whether he had ever seen a loan approved in that short amount of time, Raico replied, “No.”

Rick Gates, the deputy chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, who also worked on his campaign, had testified earlier this week that Manafort had told him to ask about making Calk secretary of the Army.

Gates was indicted along with Manafort, but pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. In a filing on Friday, Mueller said Gates is continuing to cooperate with the investigation following his testimony this week.

Andres had said in court that he planned to call the prosecution’s final four witnesses, three of them current or former employees of Federal Savings, on Friday.

But Friday’s lengthy morning recess might delay the prosecution’s plans to wrap up its case by the end of the week, as it had expected earlier.

T.S. Ellis, the federal judge overseeing the case, said the recess could not be avoided and was due to unrelated matters. He reminded jurors on Friday to “keep an open mind,” and said that Manafort is presumed innocent. He gave them explicit instructions to not talk to one another or others about the case.

Andrew Chojnowski, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as chief operating officer of home lending at Federal, is also on the witness list.

In addition, prosecutors are expected to call Irfan Kirimca, senior director of ticket operations at the Yankees, to testify about payments for Manafort’s season tickets for the baseball team.

On the stand this week, Gates said Manafort asked if he would “do him a favour” and sign a letter that attributed the cost of the tickets to him. The box seats cost between $210,000 to $225,000 a year, Gates said.

Manafort was applying for loans at the time. Witnesses have testified that he tried to represent lower debt and higher income in order to get loans.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

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Paul Manafort An Ex-Trump Aide, Faces Charges In Russia Trial


Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. (Reuters)

Washington: 

The first trial of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe begins on Tuesday with Paul Manafort, a former chairman of U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign, facing charges that he hid tens of millions of dollars earned in Ukraine in offshore accounts and defrauded banks for loans.

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. Three other aides, including longtime Manafort business partner Rick Gates, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller’s probe.

Trump has vacillated between showing sympathy for Manafort and trying to distance himself. Manafort ran Trump’s presidential campaign for three months and attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians that is a focal point of Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin.

A Manafort conviction would give momentum to Mueller, who has indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies since the probe started 14 months ago. An acquittal would support efforts by Trump and his allies to portray the probe as a “witch hunt” and waste of time and resources. Trump denies any collusion.

Manafort, 69, faces 18 criminal counts, which center on allegations that he hid much of the $60 million he earned in Ukraine in undisclosed overseas bank accounts and failed to pay taxes on it.

Prosecutors also accuse him of lying to U.S. banks to obtain real estate loans in a bid to maintain a lavish lifestyle after his client, former pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, fell from power in 2014 and the money stopped.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

While prosecutors have said they will not present evidence of collusion at this trial, they are seeking to provide details of Manafort’s work in Ukraine, raising the possibility that new information about his Russian connections could emerge. Manafort has filed a motion to have details of that work excluded from trial.

T.S. Ellis, the judge overseeing the case, has called a hearing for Tuesday at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on whether that Ukraine-related evidence can be included. That will be followed by voir dire – the process of vetting jurors for bias – at 10 a.m.

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

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to those charges, as well.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

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Donald Trump’s Former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort Goes To Jail For Tampering Witness


Paul Manafort has been a focus of investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 US presidential election.

A federal judge on Friday sent President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to jail pending trial, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged him last week with witness tampering.

Manafort, who has been a focus of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Friday before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington.

But the judge revoked Manafort’s bail conditions, sending him to jail.

Manafort has been indicted by Mueller in both Washington and Virginia on a raft of charges, including conspiracy against the United States. His trial in the Washington case is scheduled for September.

Manafort’s trial on the related charges in Virginia is set for July 25. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Manafort is currently confined to his home in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, and forced to wear a GPS monitoring device.

Mueller, whose investigation has overshadowed Trump’s presidency, is investigating whether the president’s 2016 campaign colluded with Moscow and whether Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the Russia probe. Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt and has denied wrongdoing.

Jackson had previously rebuffed Manafort’s repeated requests to end his home confinement in exchange for pledging $10 million in real estate as collateral.

A June 8 indictment charged Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort aide and political operative with alleged ties to Russian intelligence, with tampering with witnesses about their past lobbying for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.

The indictment accused Manafort and Kilimnik of attempting to call, text and send encrypted messages in February to two people from a political discussion group – the so-called Hapsburg Group – that Manafort worked with to promote Ukraine’s interests in a bid to sway their testimony.

Mueller’s team this month asked the judge to revoke Manafort’s bail, saying his “obstructive” conduct “instills little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure Manafort’s compliance with the court’s orders and prevent him from committing further crimes.”

Manafort has long-standing ties to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

The charges against Manafort in Washington include conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the United States and failing to register as a foreign agent for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government under former President Viktor Yanukovych.

None of the charges against make reference to alleged Russian interference in the election nor the accusations of collusion between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. The Kremlin has denied meddling in the election.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

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Donald Trump’s Former Campaign Chief Paul Manafort To Ask Judge To Not Jail Him


Paul Manafort has ties to pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and a Russian oligarch close to Kremlin

Washington:  President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is set to ask a federal judge on Friday not to revoke his bail and send him to jail pending trial after Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed new charges of witness tampering last week.

Manafort, whose charges arise from Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is expected to plead not guilty to the charges in the latest indictment against him during an arraignment before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington.

Manafort has been indicted by Mueller in both Washington and Virginia on a raft of charges including conspiracy against the United States. Jackson could immediately revoke his bail conditions and send Manafort to jail awaiting his trial scheduled for September in the Washington case.

His trial on the related charges in Virginia is set for July 25. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Manafort is currently confined to his home in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, and forced to wear a GPS monitoring device.

Mueller, whose investigation could threaten Trump’s presidency, is investigating whether the president’s 2016 campaign colluded with Moscow and whether Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the Russia probe. Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt and has denied wrongdoing.

Jackson has rebuffed Manafort’s repeated requests to end his home confinement in exchange for pledging $10 million in real estate as collateral.

A June 8 indictment charged Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort aide and political operative with alleged ties to Russian intelligence, with tampering with witnesses about their past lobbying for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.

The indictment accused Manafort and Kilimnik of attempting to call, text and send encrypted messages in February to two people from a political discussion group – the so-called Hapsburg Group – that Manafort worked with to promote Ukraine’s interests in a bid to sway their testimony.

Mueller’s team this month asked the judge to revoke Manafort’s bail, saying his “obstructive” conduct “instills little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure Manafort’s compliance with the court’s orders and prevent him from committing further crimes.”

Manafort has longstanding ties to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

The charges against Manafort in Washington include conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the United States and failing to register as a foreign agent for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government under former President Viktor Yanukovych.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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