Former Trump Campaign Chairman Found Guilty on 8 Counts

Politics

Paul Manafort, onetime chairman of the Trump campaign, was found guilty of eight felony counts Tuesday. He was facing eighteen counts on a bevy of charges including tax evasion, bank fraud and lying to the FBI.

The jury failed to reach a verdict in ten counts and Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those.

Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, one count of failure to file a report of foreign bank and financial accounts and two counts of bank fraud. The jury failed to reach a verdict on a combination of ten counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy.

Manafort and his longtime assistant, Rick Gates, were indicted in October by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating interference in the 2016 presidential election by the Russian government and possible cooperation in those efforts by members of the Trump campaign.

In February, Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and making false statements. He has been a cooperating witness in Mueller’s investigation ever since, and was pivotal in the case against Manafort.

Most of the funds Mueller is investigating the origins of – as much as $65 million – came from lobbying work Manafort and Gates performed for pro-Russian politicians in the country of Ukraine. The funds, Gates has since confirmed to investigators, were funneled from Ukraine to bank accounts on the island nation of Cyprus, a notorious tax haven for Russian oligarchs and their associates. From there they were laundered through shell corporations and ultimately hidden in, among other places, expensive real estate purchases in the States.

The prosecution in Manafort’s case had amassed voluminous evidence against him including emails he’d written and bank records he’d signed. Manafort had pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. He is set to stand trial in Washington D.C. for failing to properly declare himself a foreign lobbyist. That trial is set to begin next month and the prosecutors in that case are among the same prosecutors handling this case which was held in Northern Virginia.

Manafort, who has been in police custody since June, whispered to his defense attorney Thomas Zehnle briefly and nodded to his wife, Kathleen, in the courtroom before being led way.

Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lead attorney, told reporters gathered outside of the courthouse that Manafort was evaluating his options.

“Mr. Manafort is disappointed of not getting acquittals all the way through or a complete hung jury on all counts,” Downing said. “However, he would like to thank Judge Ellis for granting him a fair trial, thank the jury for their very long and hard-fought deliberations. He is evaluating all of his options at this point.”

Manafort faces between seven and nine years in prison.

President Trump tweeted his admiration for Manafort and the way he conducted himself.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!” the President wrote, alluding to his former personal attorney Michael Cohen who is now cooperating with investigators against the President.

Late this week reports that the President is considering pardoning Manafort emerged. Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill cautioned the President against doing so.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that Trump “better not talk about pardons for Cohen or Paul Manafort tonight or in the future.”

“Manafort’s conviction shows that Mueller’s investigation is far from a witch hunt, as Trump falsely repeats as a mantra,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California. “It also shows his campaign and Administration were rife with people with a history of unscrupulous business dealings and concerning ties to overseas interests.”

Senate Republicans voiced similar concerns.

“It would be an enormous mistake and misuse of his power to pardon,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

“I can’t think of what Mr. Manafort has done to deserve a pardon,” said Sen. Graham of North Carolina. “The pardon is about rewarding a person for doing something right after being convicted, it’s not about helping you as a politician,” he said.

President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has denied that a pardon for Mr. Manafort is being considered. Giuliani told Fox News that the President did discuss pardons with his legal team recently but did not mention Manafort’s name. Mr. Giuliani said a name that was discussed was Gen. Michael Flynn’s.

Flynn served as President Trump’s National Security Adviser during the first month of his administration. He was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had lied about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition.

Photo by Disney/ABC Television Group via Flickr

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