Tuesday, Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump, appeared in court in Alexandria, Virginia for the first day of what is expected to be a three-week criminal trial for financial crimes.
After the jury, that is made-up of six men, six women, four alternates, three women and one man was seated, the government issued an opening statement, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye.
Asonye painted Manafort as a liar, telling the jurors that Manafort hid debt, misstated income to secure bank loans, creating “cash out of thin air,” Asonye said, via The Washington Post, adding that Manafort, “got whatever he wanted,” this includes, according to Asonye, “a $15,000 ostrich coat” and a $2 million dollar home in Virginia.
According to the linked Post article, Asonye’s efforts to show Manafort as a tax cheating, free-spending, liar, were interrupted “more than once by U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III,” who said, “it isn’t a crime to be profligate in your spending.”
When it was the defense team’s turn, Manafort was painted as the victim of his business partner Rick Gates, “Mr. Manafort placed his trust in the wrong person,” Thomas Zehnle said, Gates, “had his hand in the cookie jar, and he couldn’t risk his boss might find out.” Zehnle said that Gates prevented people, such as bookkeepers and accountants, from “sharing information about the accounts with each other.”
Gates, who also worked on the Trump campaign, has plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and to lying to the FBI. Gates is expected to testify against Manafort.
Zehnle also explained that Manafort’s work in the Ukraine was to “bring the country closer to Western democracies after decades of Soviet Rule,” in the hopes of moving them toward the European Union and away from Russia.
The fast paced opening day even included testimony from the first government witness, Tad Devine.
Devine, who worked in 2015-16 for the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), also worked with Manafort in Ukraine.
The Washington Post reports that Devine testified to how he began working with Manafort in Ukraine and how he was “really impressed with Paul.” He told jurors that Manafort was in charge and that Gates worked for him. He also testified that Manafort “hired a range of other campaign consultants from the U.S.” One such hire was pollster Tony Fabrizio. Fabrizio also worked on the Trump campaign.
Defense attorney Richard Westling questioned Devine, asking him what he thought of Manafort, Devine told jurors, “Paul worked harder than anybody. There were emails sent through the night.” Westling also asked Devine about the money that could be made as a political consultant. Devine agreed, saying, “sometimes.”
Outside the courtroom, Devine offered no comment on the court proceedings other than, “Paul deserves a fair trial.”
What to watch for Wednesday proceedings…
The first witness expected to be called is Daniel Rabin, political consultant who worked with Manafort in the Ukraine. An unnamed FBI agent is also expected to testify. The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. eastern time.