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Paul Manafort orchestrated a multimillion-dollar conspiracy to evade U.S. tax and banking laws, leaving behind a trail of lies as he lived a lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said as they lTuesday. Prosecutor Uzo Asonye told the jury that Manafort considered himself above the law as he funneled tens of millions of dollars through offshore accounts. That “secret income” was used to pay for personal expenses such as a $21,000 watch, a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich and more than $6 million worth of real estate paid for in cash, Asonye said.
At least two witnesses are expected to testify Wednesday:
- Daniel Rabin: He’s a Democratic political consultant, and partner at Rabin Strasberg Media. He worked with Manafort, Rick Gates, Konstantin Kilimnik and Tad Devine on elections in Ukraine;
- An FBI agent, who has not been named (the prosecutor says his name is difficult to pronounce.
While the government has 35 witnesses, not all of them may be called. The defense is expected to call six witnesses.
“A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him — not tax law, not banking law,” Asonye said as he sketched out the evidence gathered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in Manafort’s bank fraud and tax evasion trial.
President Trump tweeted about Manafort Wednesday morning as the trial was beginning its second day. “Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!”
Manafort’s trial is the first arising from Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. It opened amid unresolved questions about whether Trump associates coordinated with the Kremlin to tip the election in the president’s favor.
But it was clear from the outset that the case would not address these questions: Prosecutors did not once reference Manafort’s work for the Trump campaign. Nor did they mention Mueller’s broader and ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. Mueller was not present in the courtroom.
Manafort, the lone American charged by Mueller who has opted to stand trial instead of cooperate with prosecutors, was described by his defense lawyer as a hugely successful international political consultant who left the details of his finances to others.
The trial, decided by a jury of six men and six women who were seated after a brief selection process Tuesday, is expected to last a two weeks. Eight of the 12 jurors are white. They were selected from a pool of 65 potential jurors, in a jury selection process that moved more quickly than anticipated.
Manafort has a second trial scheduled for September in the District of Columbia. It involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the U.S. government.
The other 31 people charged by Mueller so far have either pleaded guilty or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged.
CBS News’ Clare Hymes contributed to this report.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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