Manafort Drops Appeal of Civil Case Against Mueller

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A lawyer for Paul Manafort says the former Trump campaign chairman never meant to deceive USA authorities about his income or his foreign bank accounts.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III specifically told prosecutors to stop using the word "oligarch" to describe wealthy Ukrainians, whose dealings with Manafort are at the heart of the fraud charges he faces in northern Virginia federal court.

The indictment was brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director who is looking into Russian meddling in the presidential election, but the charges are not connected to Manafort's time as Trump's campaign chairman.

Rick Gates, Manafort's former business partner who pleaded guilty to making false statements after being indicted by Mueller, was expected to be a star government witness.

"This case is about taxes and trust", defence attorney Thomas Zehnle told jurors.

Prosecutors have portrayed Manafort as a tax cheat who hid money in offshore accounts, and lied to borrow millions more against real estate in a bid to maintain an extravagant lifestyle once the work dried up.

At the centre of all this will be another Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, who spent years working for Manafort in Ukraine and is also accused of helping him falsify paperwork used to obtain the bank loans.

The prosecution is laying out the evidence gathered by special counsel Robert Mueller's team. "Not tax, not banking law".

Prosecutors are seeking to provide details of Mr Manafort's work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, raising the possibility that new information about his Russian connections could emerge.

Six men and six women, along with four alternate jurors, were chosen on Tuesday.

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Manafort, 69, was wearing a black suit, white shirt and a tie.

Defence attorney Zehnle asked Manafort to stand up and face the jury, calling him "a good man" and a talented political consultant.

Asonye assured jurors Tuesday that the evidence will eventually show how Manafort "constantly issued orders" and "directed" the activities of his associates, including Gates.

While Gates and others, including former national security advisor Michael Flynn, have pleaded guilty, Manafort has refused to strike a deal and has insisted on having his day in court.

The comments were the first volley in the bank fraud and tax evasion trial.

The trial is the first courtroom test for special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked previous year with investigating Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election and to determine whether the Trump campaign was involved.

But the case is proceeding, in the first trial arising from the Mueller probe. While the main areas of Mueller's investigation are Russia's actions during the 2016 presidential election and any attempts by Trump to obstruct justice, none of those topics are expected to come up in Manafort's trial.

Mueller has submitted more than 500 pieces of evidence, including tax filings and mortgage statements, and pictures of Manafort's expensive watches and homes. He was actively involved in the jury selection, conferring with his attorneys and passing notes. Manafort's wife, Kathleen, was sitting behind him in the courtroom. He said Manafort "worked for me for a very short time".

President Trump has wavered between showing sympathy for Mr Manafort and trying to distance himself. 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.

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