Paul Manafort trial: jury selection under way

Former Trump campaign manager Manafort arrives for arraignment at U.S. District Court in Washington

"Evidence or argument relating to Mr. Manafort's work for then-candidate Trump's campaign in 2016 or the Special Counsel's investigation of the campaign's alleged collusion with the Russian government is wholly irrelevant to whether Mr. Manafort's personal income tax returns were false, whether he willfully failed to file reports of foreign accounts, and whether he conspired to commit, or committed, bank fraud", defense lawyers wrote.

The trial, in Alexandria, Virginia, is expected to last at least three weeks.

A pretrial hearing on the issue is slated for 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Tuesday, before jury selection begins.

As president, Trump has downplayed Manafort's role in the campaign.

At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will preside over the trial, warned prosecutors to restrain themselves, noting the current "antipathy" toward Russia and how "most people in this country don't distinguish between Ukrainians and Russians".

He warned jurors that Gates could not be trusted and was the type of witness who would say anything he could to save himself from a lengthy prison sentence and a crippling financial penalty.

And there's always the possibility that Manafort could take a plea deal during the trial if his defense falls apart, opting for a lighter sentence in exchange of telling Mueller's team anything he may know about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

Before joining Mr Trump's team in summer 2016, Paul Manafort had worked on a number of Republican presidential campaigns, including those of Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s and Ronald Reagan from 1978 to 1980.

Manafort remained defiant, vowing to fight the charges.




In all, prosecutors say, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts Manafort and Gates set up.

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. The evidence will also demonstrate that he was paid through foreign accounts, they said.

"There was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!" Trump tweeted early Tuesday.

A total of 16 jurors, 12 regular and four alternates, will be chosen after being screened for potential bias.

He faces additional charges in district court in Washington DC. It involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the USA government.

Manafort was indicted along with Gates in Mueller's wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of co-operating with the government.

In recent months, prosecutors in Mueller's office have produced detailed indictments charging at least Russian 25 individuals and three Russian companies with crimes related to election interference, including hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, money laundering and stealing US citizen's identities.

"Perhaps he believes that he's done nothing wrong, and because he's done nothing wrong, he's unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever - even if it's a lesser crime", said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor.

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