Jury Gets Mind-Boggling Manafort Tax, Fraud Case

 

A federal jury in Virginia began deliberations on Aug. 16 of charges that President Trump's 2016 campaign manager committed astonishing levels of multi-million-dollar corruption.

Update 1: Manafort convicted on 10 of 18 counts as Justice Integrity Project's editor Andrew Kreig reports from inside the courthouse.

Update 2: On Sept. 14, Manafort pled guilty to a superseding indictment resolving all his remaining charges, including charged pending in the DFistrict of Columbia and all remaining 10 counts in Virginia. His plea included agreement to cooperate with prosecutors, $46 million in property forfeitures and admission that all government charges were valid. In return prosecutors promised to take his admissions into consideration in recommending sentencing. Details here in a CBS report and in the appendix: BS News, Paul Manafort will cooperate with special counsel.

Following a 12-day trial, the jury in the Washington suburb of Alexandria began considering the tax, bank fraud and conspiracy charges filed by the Justice Department's Trump For Presidentspecial counsel against 2016 Trump Campaign Manager Paul J. Manafort for conduct that stemmed largely from Manafort's years as adviser to a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party before he joined the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016.

But one subset set of the 18 pending charges alleged that Manafort — shown below right in a 2016 screenshot just before the Republican National Convention — received $16 million in unmerited, fraudulent loans from a Chicago banker who sought help from Manafort in 2016 to obtain a top post in the Trump administration.

That evidence opened a rare window into a breathtaking degree of corruption involving Trump supporters like Manafort and Chicago banker Stephen Calk, even if Calk obtained only an advisory post instead one of more than a dozen other top posts that he wanted.

paul manafort cnnQuoted below (near this column's conclusion) is Calk's seemingly illegal letter of self-recommendation (with repeated misspellings of simple words) and grandiose expectations of becoming Army Secretary, Treasury Secretary, or some comparable post near the highest level of government.

An email from Trump's influential son-in-law Jared Kushner introduced at the trial quoted Kushner as telling Manafort that Kushner was "on" the task of reviewing Manafort's recommendation of Calk. Manafort had been replaced as campaign manager during the summer but was still attempting to wheel and deal.

robert mueller full face fileThe first trial by the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, left, is important in sustaining public confidence because Trump and his supporters are ramping up their relentless effort to kill the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and related corruption issues.

The stakes thus extend beyond Manafort's fate.

But even the narrow scope of the allegations is remarkable. Manafort allegedly avoided income taxes on $60 million in income, then obtained many millions in more in fraudulent bank loans when his income evaporated — and still managed to escape detection from authorities in both parties until the special counsel probe.

'Big Picture' Not Allowed

Justice Department log circularMention of circumstances surrounding the $16 million in loans was an exception to the general rule imposed by the presiding judge that Manafort's campaign and Trump connections would be kept to a minimum during the trial. But those relationships are what kept the 100-seat courtroom packed to capacity throughout the trial. An overflow room was also near capacity at many times, including during closing arguments Wednesday.

The prosecution presented a powerful case with 27 witnesses supported by nearly 400 exhibits to show that Manafort paid minimal taxes on $60 million in income hidden in overseas banks from 2010 to 2014.

The bank accounts were located primarily in Cyprus, a preferred locale for Eastern European money launderers. The money was alleged to have come from allies of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, including Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Not mentioned during the trial but well known to investigators is that Trump's U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross, a Mar-a-Lago crony of Trump, chaired the Bank of Cyprus before his current post.

The government also charged Manafort with repeatedly submitting false documents during the years 2015 and 2016 to obtain millions of dollars more in loans from three U.S. banks with fraudulent financial documentation after Manafort's income from oligarchs dried up because of the 2014 overthrow of the Ukraine' president.

rick gates cropped aug 2018The defense presented no witnesses and argued during closing arguments that any wrongdoing was committed by Manafort's junior partner Richard "Rick" Gates, left, who is now a prosecution witness, and other largely unnamed players. Gates seeks leniency from prosecutors via a plea deal to reduced charges. Gates is required by his plea agreement to testify honestly or face renewed prosecution.

Prosecutor Greg Andres argued that “The star witness in this case is the documents,” and not Gates. The prosecution entered 388 documents. The defense entered 10.

The defense closing argument seemed weak and scattered, according to many courtroom observers, including this editor. It thus seemed possible that Manafort, Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoinstead of seeking a plea deal, was relying on some non-courtroom strategy, such as a possible pardon from Trump.

Updates: The jury failed to reach a decision on its first two days of deliberations and asked the judge for guidance on four questions. Trump, meanwhile, told reporters on Friday that the prosecution was "sad" and he had sympathy for Manafort, whom he described as "a good man." The jury resumed deliberations on Monday.

This editor attended selected segments of the trial. Provided below are excerpts from others' coverage.

Presiding Judge

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis IIII (shown in a file photo) successfully pressured prosecutors to keep the trial shorter than its predicted three weeks.

thomas s ellis iii federal judgeAlso, the judge made several caustic comments in front of the jury during the prosecution's case, such as undermining the importance of a witness testimony on attempted bank fraud, that raised questions of whether he was trying to undermine if not sabotage the prosecution case — or whether he was merely acting as, often the case, as acerbic prima donna

One such commentary was an Aug. 9 profile in the New York Times, Judge in Manafort Trial Is a ‘Caesar’ in His Own Rome, by Emily Cochrane and Sharon LaFraniere. Retired federal judge Nancy Gertner weighed in with an Aug. 16 Washington Post column The extraordinary bias of the judge in the Manafort trial.

Another column even more biting was Manafort's "deep state" trial judge on Aug. 3 by commentator and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen. He suggested motives in his typically blunt style: 

Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and lobbyist for eastern European oligarchs and Third World dictators, could not have a better judge in his federal trial in Alexandria, Virginia than Thomas Selby ("T.S.") Ellis.

Ellis, who is 78, was nominated to the bench of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia by Ronald Reagan in 1987. Ellis's court, for which he is a senior judge, is nicknamed the "rocket docket" because of the speed at which it has deliberated and concluded several national security cases involving the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI. These are often adjudicated with plea agreements, with no chance for examination and cross-examination of witnesses or presentation of evidence.

Ellis has instructed the prosecutors, defense team, and jury that the name "Trump" is immaterial to the Manafort case. During a pre-trial hearing, Ellis demonstrated his Republican bias when he told prosecutors, "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud . . . What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment. …The vernacular is to 'sing.'"

Ellis, however, pulled back from his most caustic remarks over the course of the trial in the face of formal protests by prosecutors. The judge made several "corrective" comments to the jury. For instance, he granted prosecutors all three of their requests Wednesday on disputed points just before the prosecution's final argument and before the judge's nearly two-hours of instructions to the jury.

The specifics are too complex and potentially minor to summarize here for the most part.

The most important point is that neither side in a trial can rest comfortably with a fear that a jury might think that the presiding judge personally favors the other side. Ellis seemed to realize that his favored persona of an expert curmudgeon was creating a negative image. The judge asserted his control of the courtroom in several humorous asides on Wednesday. But these involved scheduling and other administrative matters for the most part.

Donald Trump for President logoOutside the presence of the jury on Wednesday, Ellis mentioned in passing that he was aware of the heavy media coverage that the case is generating because of Manafort's prominence in the 2016 campaign and otherwise. The judge has repeatedly admonished the jury, which is not sequestered in a hotel, to stay away from any news outlet or person that might mention the case.

One long interruption in the trial led observers to speculate that the judge was inquiring regarding suspicion that a juror had expressed an opinion on the case or been compromised in some other fashion by the wide public interest. But no juror was replaced. The judge dismissed four alternates and handed the case to the six male and six female original jurors.   

Closing Arguments

“When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort’s money, it is littered with lies,” prosecutor Greg Andres told jurors on Wednesday. “Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied to get more money when he didn’t.”

Anders reviewed evidence of how Manafort created and maintained many overseas bank accounts in Cyprus to help fund his U.S. operations and lavish lifestyle without paying required federal income taxes. The prosecutor noted that even Manafort's accounting and other business aides said they were not aware of some of the major overseas bank accounts, which the prosecution argued were controlled by Manafort.

The money came primarily from Manafort's strategic advice to viktor yanukovychthe Russia-allied Ukrainian President Yanukovych, left, who was overthrown in a U.S.-backed rebellion (which some call a coup) in 2014.

Anders noted that Gates, 46, confirmed on the witness stand Manafort's criminal intent. Gates began as Manafort's intern two decades ago and advanced to higher roles as a junior partner and ultimately to major national roles with the Trump campaign and Inaugural.

The prosecution conceded that Gates was also implicated in the crimes but stressed that enough substantive evidence exists in documents and other witnesses exists to convict Manafort even if the Gates credibility is scant by itself. 

The prosecutor conceded further to the jury that Gates was no "Boy Scout." But he argued that the financial affairs were primarily under Manafort's control, as evident from documents. Gates made a base salary of some $200,000 to $250,000 a year, plus bonuses, attorneys argued, but embezzled further amounts from Manafort to live far beyond his means while conducting at least one romantic affair. 

Kevin Downing, the lead defense lawyer for Manafort, had led the cross-examination of Gates and reiterated during closing arguments that Gates had shown himself to be a thief and adulterer with no credibility. Downing said that Gates is the cause of groundless suspicions against Manafort.

The defense argued also against bank fraud allegations. Among their arguments were that purported Manafort signatures on various documents did not appear to be the same, thereby raising the possibility that others (unnamed) were responsible. The defense also suggesting that banks made reasonable, fair-market loans to a professional of Manafort's stature, who reportedly made a total of $90 million during a decade before the consulting business that he and Gates ran cratered in 2015.

Downing also argued that the "special counsel" has shown an unusual interest in Manafort's case. Prosecutors later objected to this point outside the jury's presence. The presiding judge agreed with prosecutors that he should issue a "curative" to underscore that the Department of Justice's overall record was not on trial.

bradley birkenfeld cover mugVirtually unmentioned by any commentator but readily apparent to readers here is Downing's controversial track record before his retirement from the U.S. Justice Department in 2012 as head of its tax fraud unit:

Although Downing obviously achieved successes to obtain such a position, critics say that he had also failed to investigate aggressively the world's leading financial institution UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) for massive money laundering and tax avoidance aside from helping prosecute and imprison UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, as we reported two years ago upon publication of Birkenfeld's caustic memoir Lucifer's Banker.

Our column was: Courageous Memoir Denounces Banks, Justice Dept. Corruption.

In the book, Birkenfeld recounts how he travelled from Europe to alert Downing and his team to frauds and to offer the Justice Department and IRS a list of 19,000 wealthy U.S. tax cheats. He alleges that the Justice Department under both Republicans and Democrats was reluctant to prosecute wealthy and well-connected tax avoiders, but the Internal Revenue Service did pursue his leads.

irs logoBirkenfeld's whistleblowing ultimately led to $15 billion in recoveries for the U.S. Treasury from tax scofflaws. 

Meanwhile, Downing and then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, now the U.S. Secretary of Labor, were prosecuting Birkenfeld and imposing a three-year prison term while they also failed to pursue higher-ups at UBS and elsewhere with similar energy.

More generally, Birkenfeld today wrote the Justice Integrity Project that Downing "screwed up the KPMG [tax shelter] case in NYC and now failed to uncover Manafort's illegal offshore acoounts (2008-2012) WHILE the head of the Tax Division at DOJ. But he now represents him in court???" Details from Birkenfeld's perspective are on his memoir's website.

This editor repeatedly asked Downing to comment on these allegations earlier this year while Dowling was walking away from a pretrial Manafort hearing at Washington, DC's federal court. But Downing waved questions away repeatedly without comment.

The Big Picture

robert mueller full face fileMuch as the judge sought to keep the case narrowly focused on the charges against Manafort, those in the larger world often regard the case via partisan or other political viewpoints.

Trump and his allies stress that the case has a relatively small focus on Russian tampering with the 2016 election itself, which is the core mandate for Mueller, the former FBI director shown at right in a file photo. Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani this week has called for an end of the Mueller's probe in September.

Supporting such a view, the often independent-minded commentator Jacob Hornberger published Trump Would Be Stupid to Talk to Mueller on Aug. 15, arguing that Mueller is wasting taxpayer money by such actions as prosecuting Manafort (instead of leaving that prosecution to normal Justice Department prosecutors) while is making scant public showing aside from indictments that Trump himself has done anything wrong.

Hornberger is a lawyer and libertarian think tank president whose columns we sometimes cite here on other matters. But he is misguided in the above-cited column, as a closer review of the special counsel's probe and the Manafort trial evidence would show.

ken starr wMueller's probe is still relatively brief in terms of other special counsel probes, such as that in the 1990s by Kenneth Starr (shown at left).

Furthermore, Mueller abides far more faithfully than the leak-prone Starr probe or the Trump administration to normal procedural rules admonishing litigants from out-of-court statements and disclosures

Also, it is hardly reasonable for blame the special counsel's team for limited evidence of Russian relationships in Manafort's Virginia trial when, for example, the presiding judge was pressuring prosecutors to limit evidence and the trial was intentionally separated from a second case against Manafort scheduled in September. That second trial is on charges that Manafort failed to register for foreign lobbying activities that, some speculate, could conflict with U.S. policies. 

Most importantly, investigative reporting and evidence arising in the Virginia trial show that the Manafort-Gates conduct represents a tip of the iceberg regarding Russia-related and other scandals in the Trump administration. Mueller is empowered to probe these matters when they arise.

An extension of Mueller's probe of Ukrainian-Russian money laundering to GOP policy would be far less of a stretch than the GOP-approved extension of Starr's Whitewater Arkansas land deal by the Clintons to the Lewinsky sex scandal, with those probes lasting through much of the 1990s.

Critics of Mueller's probe of Manafort typically refuse to recognize the campaign manager's influence during a critical stage of Trump's campaign, Manafort's desperate financial situation, and his attempts to profit from both his foreign and campaign contexts, including via such contacts as Gates.

paul manafort lawnewz dcmaEven after Manafort, shown in a file photo at left, resigned as Trump's campaign chairman in August 2016, He continued to serve as GOP deputy campaign manager in 2016 under Manafort's successor Steve Bannon. Gates was deputy director of Trump's Inaugural.

Big picture portraits of Manafort, the son of a Connecticut mayor and a longtime political operative who once partnered with Roger Stone during the Reagan era, included the exceptional reporting by Franklin Foer for The Atlantic last winter in American Hustler / The Plot Against America.

Foer's in-depth feature — subtitled Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington — described why Manafort's financial plight, including confinement to a mental health facility in early 2016 at a time why he could not afford a private room, prompted him to regard the Trump campaign as yet another way to cash in on his political connections.

There have been many other such reports, including a commentary The Whole Republican Party Seems to Be Going to Jail Now by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine on Aug. 8. Chait linked revelations that day in the Manafort trial to three other major Trump-related scandals in the previous 24 hours:

The entire Trump era has been a festering pit of barely disguised ongoing corruption. But the whole sordid era has not had a 24-hour period quite like the orgy of criminality which we have just experienced. The events of the last day alone include:

(1) The trial of Paul Manafort, which has featured the accusation that President Trump’s campaign manager had embezzled funds, failed to report income, and falsified documents. His partner and fellow Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, confessed to participating in all these crimes, as well as to stealing from Manafort.

(2) wilbur ross speechYesterday, Forbes reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have stolen $120 million from his partners and customers. Meanwhile Ross (shown in a file photo) has maintained foreign holdings in his investment portfolio that present a major conflict of interest with his public office. (The “Don’t worry, Wilbur Ross would never do anything unethical just to pad his bottom line” defense is likely to be, uh, unconvincing to the many people filing suit against Ross for allegedly doing exactly that.)

(3) Also yesterday, ProPublica reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs is being effectively run by three Trump cronies, none of whom have any official government title or public accountability. The three, reports the story, have “used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests.”

(4) And then, this morning, Representative Chris Collins was arrested for insider trading. Collins had been known to openly boast about making millions of dollars for his colleagues with his insider knowledge. He is charged with learning of an adverse FDA trial, and immediately calling his son — from the White House! — urging him to sell his holdings.

These days, the public can draw from a vast array of information sources, including about the Manafort trial.

In that trial, prosecutors showed that Manafort could not afford his $200,000 annual fee for New York Yankees season tickets, for example, and so he needed to hide that kind of debt when he was applying for huge bank loans. But prosecutors argued to the jury tht they were not prosecuting Manafort for being wealthy and enjoying his lifestyle but instead for fraud in enabling it.

A Banker's Fantasy

Out of all of this, few more spectacular examples of apparent corruption and danger to the public exist than the efforts by Federal Savings Bank CEO Stephen Calk to obtain a Trump administration post as, apparently, his just reward for career that perhaps most notably featured his bank's approval of $16 million in loans to Manafort.

steve calk banker croppedCalk (shown at right in a file photo) proposed himself to become Secretary of the Army as his first choice. He was so confident of obtaining the post that, according to evidence introduced at trial, the Chicago banker asked for a Pentagon briefing on current developments during 2016. This was, of course, during the Obama administration as well as during Army deployments in a number of battle regions worldwide.

To Trump campaign and transition officials, Calk listed also the alternative jobs that he preferred, in ranked order. Here they are, as offered in evidence by the special counsel's office during the Manafort trial.

donald trump make great logoAmong his qualifications, Calk listed, using the third persion: “Mr. Calk willingly risked his national professional and personal reputation as an active, vocal, and early supporter of President-Elect Trump.”

He listed the “Perspective Rolls” [sic] that he would like in the administration, listing possible prospective jobs he sought, in order. Secretary of the Army was number one, followed by the chiefs of Treasury, Commerce, HUD, and Defense. He listed also several other executive branch agencies.

United Kingdom flagHe said he would also be most interested an ambassadorship in the United Kingdom but would settle for France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Ireland, Australia, China, United Nations, the European Union, Portugal, the Vatican, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Singapore, in that order.

For readers here, as for members of the public anywhere who care about these offices and their missions, imagine if their leaders are appointed via cronyism?

Obviously, however, this is exactly the type of probe that Mueller's office is undertaking, most publicly with its first trial, that of Manafort.

What appears to be a mind-boggling level of arrogance and corruption on Calk's part is underscored by several additional factors.

One is that the Treasury Department, responsible for federal income tax collection as well as the overall state of the economy and numerous anti-terrorism programs, was so high on the list of the banker.

djt official SmallImplicit, and yet clearly understood by those involved, according to email evidence, was that his key credential appeared to be loyalty to the Trump Team, as evidenced most obviously by his decision to override his bank subordinates and have the bank's shareholders issue Manafort such huge loans.

Another telling moment is that Calk repeatedly misspelled the word "role" in arguing that he could assume the various cabinet positions. He spelled the word "roll."

When Calk did spell the word correctly in one place, prosecutors told the jury that they became so suspicious they sought to learn why via an online search of words in the pattern that he used.

That search revealed, they said, that Calk had copied for his self-nomination from Wikipedia a long description of the Secretary of the Army's "role," thereby assigning those qualifications listed on Wikipedia to his own job application, which went to Kushner.

Manafort's attorneys argued in passing that the prosecution's case against Manafort was in trouble because so many potential witnesses like Calk appeared only in documents, not in person.

To the contrary: Their absence from the Virginia courtroom could mean that lots of others besides Manafort, including Calk, face well-deserved examination from Mueller's team in ways that could soon become apparent.

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Related News Coverage

Updates

Sept. 15

GOP Lobbyist's Crime Career

washington post logoWashington Post, Guilty plea exposes hardball tactics Manafort used to thrive in ‘swamp,’ Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 15, 2018. Before he was the Trump campaign chairman, the lobbyist went to extreme lengths in a secret effort to help a Ukrainian politician, court papers show.

Before he was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort embraced extreme tactics in his lobbying efforts: He schemed “to plant some stink” and spread stories that a jailed Ukrainian politician was a murderer. He enlisted a foreign politician who was secretly on his payroll to deliver a message to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. And he gleefully fueled allegations that an Obama Cabinet member who had spoken out against his Ukrainian client was an anti-Semite, according to court papers.

With his guilty plea Friday, Manafort admitted the lengths to which he went to manipulate the American political system and the media for massive profit, exposing how he thrived in the Washington swamp that Trump railed against during his campaign.

The president has dismissed the allegations against his former campaign chairman as run-of-the-mill lobbying — and has even contemplated pardoning him. But new details revealed Friday show how far beyond the law Manafort went in pursuit of his goals.

By pleading guilty, Manafort agreed that he knew he was required by law to publicly report that a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party was paying him and his stable of lobbyists, which included former leaders of Austria, Poland and Italy.

Instead, he operated in the dark, working diligently to keep his lobbying for Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych a secret and pocketing millions routed through offshore bank accounts to hide his work and avoid paying taxes.

“This is extraordinary,” said Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

“I was well aware at the time that Manafort was making efforts to present Yanukovych in the best light,” McFaul said, but added that he had no idea of the extent of Manafort’s elaborate schemes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Robert Mueller may have just eliminated one of Trump’s biggest complaints, Philip Bump, Sept. 15, 2018 (print edition). Trump likes to complain about the cost of the Mueller probe. It might just have paid for itself.

If we assume the same cost-per-day for the investigation that was reported through March of this year, the probe has so far cost the government about $26 million. That’s the $17 million through March and another $9 million since.

But here’s the thing, pointed out by journalist Marcy Wheeler on her personal site: The Mueller probe may have just paid for itself.

Why? Because part of the plea agreement reached between Mueller and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort includes forfeiture of certain property to the government. While it’s not clear how much value will be extracted from that forfeiture, there’s reason to think that it could more than pay for what Mueller has incurred so far.

Sept. 14

cbs news logoCBS News, Paul Manafort will cooperate with special counsel, Paula Reid, Clare Hymes, Steven Portnoy and Jeff Pegues, Sept. 14, 2018 (4:16 min. video). Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered a guilty plea to two felonies Friday. He will also be cooperating with the special counsel in its Russia investigation, prosecutor Andrew Weissman told the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Friday.

Weissman referred to Manafort's plea deal as a cooperation agreement in court Friday, which could jeopardize his chances of a presidential pardon. In late July, an attorney for Manafort told CBS News' Paula Reid that there was "no chance" his client would cooperate with the special counsel in its Russia probe. It is not yet clear whether Manafort's cooperation is related to President Trump or whether he would provide information on some other aspect of the investigation.

Manafort appeared at the hearing with three attorneys, including Kevin Downing, who said nothing during the hearing. The government brought a large contingent, though special counsel Robert Mueller was not present. Several lawyers, FBI and IRS agents who had worked on the case attended the hearing, occupying two-and-a-half rows in the audience. They were all hugging and congratulating each other at the end of the hearing.

The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was asked by Reid (CBS Washington correspondent) whether he had been told by Manafort's attorneys that the cooperation deal will not require him to share anything related to the president. "I'm confident," he replied, without saying whether Manafort's lawyers had given him this assurance.

Manafort is pleading guilty to charges the special counsel filed Friday on conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The former includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Accounts, and the latter includes the charge of witness tampering.

In August, Manafort was found guilty on eight out of 18 counts of financial crimes in his first trial in Virginia. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 10 counts, which ended in mistrial. As part of his plea agreement, Manafort has admitted his guilt to the rest of the bank fraud counts in Virginia, and in return, the government will not retry the other counts in which a mistrial was declared.

Manafort is still subject to whatever sentence is imposed in the Virginia trial. And the judge may decide to run those sentences consecutively or concurrently. In Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that based on the guidelines, which are determined based on factors such as Manafort's involvement and the nature of the crimes, he faces a range of 210 to 262 months and a $400,000 fine. But that is more than the statutory maximum which is five years, which the judge cannot exceed.

The charges were filed in a superseding criminal information -- a formal criminal charge -- which lays out the facts of the offense and is often the precursor to the announcement of a deal.

Sept. 13

ABC News, Paul Manafort and special counsel reach tentative plea deal: Sources, Katherine Faulders, Trish Turner, John Santucci and Matthew Mosk, Sept. 13, 2018. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has tentatively agreed to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that will head off his upcoming trial, sources familiar with the negotiations tell ABC News.

The deal is expected to be announced in court Friday, but it remains unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors or is simply conceding to a guilty plea, paul manafort mugwhich would allow him to avoid the stress and expense of trial, according to three sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Manafort, shown in a mug shot, and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors who are involved in the ongoing investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

ABC News spotted the team arriving in a dark SUV Thursday morning, pulling into a secret entrance out of public view at the building where Special Counsel Robert Mueller is based.

Aug. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort wants to move his D.C. trial to Roanoke, saying Washington jurors are biased, Spencer S. Hsu, Aug.29, 2018. Attorneys for Paul Manafort are asking to have his coming money laundering and conspiracy trial moved from Washington, D.C., to Roanoke, arguing his fraud convictions in Alexandria this month worsened pretrial publicity in the nation’s capital.

In court filings Wednesday, his defense team also claimed a more pro-Republican jury, as they believe would be found in Roanoke, would decide his case more fairly. That repeats an argument the Manafort defense made, and lost, in asking to move his Virginia case out of Alexandria.

The defense for President Trump’s former campaign chairman told a federal judge in D.C. Manafort “has become an unwilling player in the larger drama” between Trump and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and asserted that nowhere are potential jurors more biased against him than in the District because of its partisan makeup and saturation of political news.

Aug. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, White House grapples with Cohen, Manafort convictions, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 23, 2018 (print edition). Inside President Trump’s orbit, there is a debate: Some confidants see this week — in which two of his former aides were convicted in federal courts — as an unsettling inflection point. Others just see yet another round of problems that are not a danger to Trump.

paula duncan

Manafort juror Paula Duncan speakers out (screen shot from Fox News interview)

washington post logoWashington Post, Lone holdout on Manafort jury blocked conviction on all counts, juror says, Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 23, 2018. A juror in the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman said she and most of her peers wanted to convict him on every charge.

Fox News via MSN, Manafort juror reveals lone holdout prevented Mueller team from convicting on all counts, Shannon Bream interview, Aug. 22, 2018 (11:47 min. video). Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was one holdout juror away from convicting Paul Manafort on all 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

“It was one person who kept the verdict from being guilty on all 18 counts,” Duncan, 52, said. She added that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors often seemed bored, apparently catnapping during parts of the trial.

The identities of the jurors have been closely held, kept under seal by Judge T.S. Ellis III at Tuesday's conclusion of the high-profile trial. But Duncan gave a behind-the-scenes account to Fox News on Wednesday, after the jury returned a guilty verdict against the former Trump campaign chairman on eight financial crime counts and deadlocked on 10 others. Duncan described herself as an avid supporter of President Trump, but said she was moved by four full boxes of exhibits provided by Mueller’s team – though she was skeptical about prosecutors' motives in the financial crimes case.

“Certainly Mr. Manafort got caught breaking the law, but he wouldn’t have gotten caught if they weren’t after President Trump,” Duncan said of the special counsel’s case, which she separately described as a “witch hunt to try to find Russian collusion,” borrowing a phrase Trump has used in tweets more than 100 times.

“Something that went through my mind is, this should have been a tax audit,” Duncan said, sympathizing with the foundation of the Manafort defense team’s argument.

She described a tense and emotional four days of deliberations, which ultimately left one juror holding out. Behind closed doors, tempers flared at times, even though jurors never explicitly discussed Manafort’s close ties to Trump.

“It was a very emotionally charged jury room – there were some tears,” Duncan said about deliberations with a group of Virginians she didn’t feel included many “fellow Republicans.”

A political allegiance to the president also raised conflicted feelings in Duncan, but she said it ultimately didn’t change her decision about the former Trump campaign chairman.

“Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me, I wanted him to be innocent, I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t,” Duncan said. “That’s the part of a juror, you have to have due diligence and deliberate and look at the evidence and come up with an informed and intelligent decision, which I did.”

Duncan, a Missouri native and mother of two, showed Fox News her two notebooks with her juror number #0302 on the covers.

In the interview, Duncan also described how the special counsel’s prosecutors apparently had a hard time keeping their eyes open.“A lot of times they looked bored, and other times they catnapped – at least two of them did,” Duncan said. “They seemed very relaxed, feet up on the table bars and they showed a little bit of almost disinterest to me, at times.”

The jury box was situated in a corner of the courtroom that gave them an unobstructed head-on view of the prosecutors and defense, while members of the media and the public viewed both parties from behind.

Judge Ellis told jurors, including Duncan, that their names would remain sealed after the trial’s conclusion, because of dangerous threats he received during the proceedings.

But the verdict gave Duncan a license to share her story without fear.“Had the verdict gone any other way, I might have been,” Duncan said.

Her account of the deliberations is no longer a secret. And neither is the pro-Trump apparel she kept for a long drive to the federal courthouse in Alexandria every day.

“Every day when I drove, I had my Make America Great Again hat in the backseat,” said Duncan, who said she plans to vote for Trump again in 2020. “Just as a reminder.”

Aug. 21

New York Times, Cohen Pleads Guilty; Manafort Convicted

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kemp

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen: Tump Asked for Hush Payments to Women, Cohen Says, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess and Jim Rutenberg, Aug. 21, 2018. Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer (shown in a file photo in front of Trump Tower), made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that he had arranged payments to two women at Mr. Trump’s behest to secure their silence about affairs they said they had with him.

Mr. Cohen acknowledged the illegal payments while pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges. He told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payments to the women were “at the direction of the candidate,” and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.

Mr. Cohen also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion and bank fraud, bringing to a close a monthslong investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors who examined his personal business dealings and his role in helping to arrange financial deals with women connected to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic film actress “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Mr. Trump, to secure her silence about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump.

[Read more about Mr. Cohen’s appearance in court and his admission that he paid Stormy Daniels “at the direction” of President Trump.]

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Found Guilty of 8 Fraud Charges, Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 21, 2018. The ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort was convicted of eight counts, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the other 10.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on Tuesday in his financial fraud trial, bringing a dramatic end to a politically charged case that riveted the capital.

The verdict was read out in United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., only minutes after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to violating campaign finance law and other charges.

Mr. Manafort’s trial did not touch directly on Mr. Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election or on whether Mr. Trump has sought to obstruct the investigation. But it was the first test of the special counsel’s ability to prosecute a case in a federal courtroom amid intense criticism from the president and his allies that the inquiry is a biased and unjustified witch hunt.

paul manafort mugThe verdict was a victory for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose prosecutors built a case that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars in foreign accounts to evade taxes and lied to banks repeatedly to obtain $20 million in loans.

Mr. Manafort, shown at left in a jail mugshot, was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 10 counts, and the judge declared a mistrial on those charges.

Kevin Downing, a lawyer for Mr. Manafort, said his client was “evaluating all of his options at this point.”

Aug. 17

Roll Call, Manafort Judge Says He’s Getting Death Threats, Griffin Connolly, Aug. 17, 2018. Judge T.S. Ellis III says he won’t reveal jurors info to prevent them from getting similar threats.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘No Comment’: The Special Counsel’s (Very) Careful Team, Noah Weiland, Aug. 17, 2018 (print edition). The trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has provided the public with its first extended glimpse of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators.

The prosecutors’ habits are to be expected in such a big case, former members of independent counsel teams said. The difference this time is the magnitude of the investigation paired with an era of instant news.

“This is unusual,” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a deputy independent counsel who was selected by Judge Kenneth W. Starr to handle the grand jury questioning of President Bill Clinton. “This is a major, major trial with intense press interest in an era when you have 24-hour cable news.”

Perhaps no member of Mr. Mueller’s team has drawn more curiosity than the special counsel himself, who has not spoken publicly about the inquiry. The void has filled with speculation about the smallest observations — even about his choice of watch, the hyper-accurate Casio DW-290, which he wears with the face on the inside of his wrist.

Aug. 16

Roll Call, Manafort Jury at Impasse Over Foreign Accounts, ‘Reasonable Doubt’, Griffin Connolly, Aug 16, 2018. Jurors had four questions for judge Thursday. After roughly seven hours of deliberation Thursday, the six men and six women on the jury deciding the fate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort appeared at an impasse and will require at least another day to hand down their verdict.

At approximately 5:06 p.m., Judge T.S. Ellis III read a handwritten note from the jury with four questions. One of the questions referred to the requirements for people filing reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, or FBARs. Another asked the judge to redefine “reasonable doubt.”

The questions Thursday afternoon provide insight into the debates jurors are sorting out as they try to come to a consensus agreement on whether Manafort is guilty or innocent on none, some, or all, of the 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud.

In their first question for Ellis, the jury asked if someone is required to file an FBAR if they own “less than 50 percent of the account, do not have signature authority over the account,” but do have the authority to “direct disbursement of funds” from the account. Prosecutors have charged Manafort with willfully failing to submit FBARs to the Treasury Department in order to conceal the existence of 31 foreign accounts in which he allegedly hid more than $30 million from the IRS.

To be required to file an FBAR, a person must own more than 50 percent of the entity with foreign accounts. For the years 2012 through 2014, Manafort owned a flat 50 percent of his political consulting firms that controlled the foreign bank accounts, the defense has argued — just under the threshold that would trigger an FBAR requirement.

But Manafort’s wife, Kathleen, owned the other 50 percent, and the couple have filed joint tax returns for decades, U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye has argued. The rules for filing an FBAR state that a person can have ownership both “directly” and “indirectly.”

The jury must decide if Kathleen Manafort’s 50 percent stake in Davis Manafort Partners and DMP International counts as her husband’s “indirect” ownership.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Paul Manafort jury is inquiring about “reasonable doubt,” Bill Palmer, Aug. 16, 2018.  he jury in the Paul Manafort trial has just begun its deliberations, and now several major news outlets are reporting that jurors are already asking the judge in the case to provide them with the legal definition of “reasonable doubt.”

Taken out of context, this reporting has spooked a number of people into worrying that perhaps the jury is preparing to let Manafort off the hook. But within the context of the legal proceedings, this all means something very different.

ny times logoNew York Times, Questions the Jurors in the Manafort Trial Will Be Asking, Sharon LaFraniere and Emily Baumgaertner, Aug. 16, 2018. Jury deliberations began in the trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, who is charged with 18 counts of bank and tax fraud. The prosecution called more than 20 witnesses and presented a wealth of documents, including Mr. Manafort’s financial records and emails. The defense rested without calling any witnesses, which is not uncommon.

Many factors could affect how the jury weighs the evidence. Here are some:

Rick Gates’s credibility. Mr. Manafort’s close aide for nearly two decades, Mr. Gates helped Mr. Manafort with both his business and personal finances. At Mr. Manafort’s request, he testified, he doctored profit and loss statements, lied to accountants about Mr. Manafort’s foreign bank accounts and helped him deceive bank officers so they would approve millions of dollars in loans for which Mr. Manafort did not qualify.

But Mr. Gates was also a flawed witness. He has pleaded guilty to two felony charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the hope of winning a lighter sentence. He also acknowledged committing a host of other crimes, including embezzling from Mr. Manafort’s accounts.

On the stand, he vacillated between taking responsibility for his misdeeds and trying to minimize them. Asked why he lied on one financial document, for instance, he said he was merely doing his friend “a favor.” Kevin Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, accused him of leading a “secret life” that included at least one mistress, and possibly four.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion:The extraordinary bias of the judge in the Manafort trial, Nancy Gertner, Aug. 16, 2018.  Nancy Gertner, a retired U.S. District Court judge in Massachusetts, is a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

It is not unusual for judges to intervene in court proceedings from time to time — to direct the lawyers to move the case along or to admonish them that evidence is repetitive.

The performance of U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III in the trial of Paul Manafort on bank fraud and tax evasion charges has been decidedly unusual. During the trial, Ellis intervened regularly, and mainly against one side: the prosecution. The judge's interruptions occurred in the presence of the jury and on matters of substance, not courtroom conduct. He disparaged the prosecution's evidence, misstated its legal theories, even implied that prosecutors had disobeyed his orders when they had not.

Aug. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort’s tax- and bank-fraud case is heading to the jury, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Devlin Barrett, Aug. 15, 2018. Jury members in the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort heard closing arguments Wednesday as they prepared to deliberate on 18 charges of bank fraud and lying to the IRS that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

The jury is scheduled to start deliberating Thursday after hearing testimony about the lavish lifestyle and multimillion-dollar loans of the political consultant and onetime chairman of the Trump campaign.

As Andres spoke, slowly and dispassionately, jurors looked at him, occasionally scribbling notes in the black notebooks they have used throughout the trial. Manafort, wearing a blue suit, did not look at Andres or the jury while the prosecutor spoke.

Those competing positions, made in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court during a daylong session, will soon give way to jury deliberations in the first case brought by Mueller’s Russia investigative squad to reach trial.

Politico, Manafort trial Day 12: Prosecution hammers Manafort's 'lies,' defense chides 'selective' evidence, Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelson, Aug. 15, 2018. The competing positions were made during closing arguments in the first case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigative squad to reach trial.

Prosecutors urged jurors in the trial of Paul Manafort to focus on financial records and Manafort’s “lies” — and to set aside personal feelings about a tainted star witness — as the government offered its closing argument on Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort’s defense team rests without calling witnesses, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui, Rachel Weiner and Tom Jackman​, Aug. 15, 2018 (print edition). The decision in the bank- and tax-fraud case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort comes after Judge T.S. Ellis III denied a defense motion to acquit Manafort as his lawyers argued the special counsel had failed to prove its case.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Trump Would Be Stupid to Talk to Mueller, Jacob G. Hornberger, Aug. 15, 2018. The U.S. mainstream press is obviously becoming increasingly anxious about Special Counsel (and former FBI Director) Robert Mueller’s efforts to bring an early end to Donald Trump’s presidency. After all, it has now been 15 months (and millions of taxpayer dollars) since Mueller received his special appointment, and he still has not charged Trump with any wrongdoing whatsoever.

What Mueller has done is secure indictments against a few Russians who, according to Wikipedia, supposedly attempted “to trick Americans into consuming Russian propaganda that targeted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and later President-elect Donald Trump.”

Big deal. I can’t help wonder which Americans ended up being tricked by that dangerous, mind-altering Russian propaganda. Maybe they ought to sue their public schools for educational malpractice.

Currently, Mueller is spending his time and U.S. taxpayer money going after former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort. The charges? Income-tax violations and bank fraud.

But isn’t it the job of the Justice Department to go after people who are accused of those types of crimes? Why is Mueller’s special team prosecuting Manafort? Could it be because Mueller is hoping to secure a conviction against Manafort that will enable him to squeeze Manafort into providing some incriminating evidence against Trump, even if involves matters that don’t relate to the anti-Russia brouhaha, such as tax or regulatory violations? Could it be that Mueller is hoping to turn Manafort into another Rick Gates, the man who Mueller has given special treatment for agreeing to rat out Manafort?

Meanwhile, increasingly desperate over the passage of 15 months and still no charges by Mueller against Trump, the mainstream press is doing its best to pressure and manipulate Trump into agreeing to be interviewed by Mueller.

Aug. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Defense team gets chance to present its case in Manafort trial, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui, Rachel Weiner and Tom Jackman​, Aug. 14, 2018. 

Tuesday, 9:19 a.m.: New emails show Manafort deeply involved in financial dealings with banks, loan applications. Before resting Monday, prosecutors moved into evidence about three dozen emails that have not previously been shown. Most attempt to  show Paul Manafort himself was deeply involved in his financial dealings even when delegating authority to deputy Rick Gates, who defense attorneys claim was sabotaging his boss. Gates testified he committed fraud at Manafort’s direction and testified under a plea deal with prosecutors.

On Monday, Manafort’s attorneys argued some of the allegations related to the loans from Federal Savings Bank are not “material,” or significant. steve calk banker croppedThe Federal Savings Bank loaned Manafort $16 million, which prosecutors say Manafort received based on fraudulent financial information. Prosecutors also say the bank’s chief executive, Stephen Calk (shown  at right), had helped Manafort secure the loans because Calk wanted a Cabinet-level position in the Trump administration.

In an Aug. 4, 2016 email to Manafort, Calk says, “I am happy and willing to serve.” In November, just after the election, Calk sends a petition to be nominated Secretary of the Army to Manafort, asking “what changes and improvements I should make.”

Politico, Manafort trial Day 11: Defense rests without calling witnesses, Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelson, Aug. 14 , 2018.

Aug. 10

Manafort Corruption Trial

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort got $16 million in loans from bank whose CEO wanted Trump administration post, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Tom Jackman, Aug. 10, 2018. Federal Savings Bank Senior Vice President Dennis Raico testified how Paul Manafort won quick approval for loans as part of a process that featured unusual involvement from the bank’s CEO and chairman Steve Calk, shown above, who was seeking a role in the Trump administration.

A bank CEO who helped President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort obtain $16 million in loans hoped for a Cabinet-level position in the administration, a bank employee testified in federal court Friday.

The bank employee, Dennis Raico, was called as a witness after a confusing morning at Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Va., during which U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III huddled privately with prosecutors and defense attorneys, delaying the start of testimony until midafternoon. A transcript of those discussions was sealed.

No reason was offered for the delay, but when Raico finally took the stand, he described how the CEO, Steve Calk, was willing to depart from bank policies to approve loans for a friendly and well-connected political operative.

thomas s ellis iii federal judge

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III is presiding, sometimes colorfully and in biased, anti-prosecution fashion, over the trial of Paul Manafort (file photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge in Manafort trial admits mistake after berating prosecutors, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Devlin Barrett​, ​Aug. 10, 2018 (print edition). T.S. Ellis III’s daily spats with the government’s attorneys subsided Thursday as he asked jury members to ignore his outburst the day before. The move came in response to a motion filed overnight by prosecutors pursuing bank fraud and tax evasion charges against Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

Aug. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 8: Judge Ellis apologizes for outburst at prosecutors, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Tom Jackman​, Aug. 9, 2018. The mea culpa from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III came before federal prosecutors sought to detail how Paul Manafort allegedly defrauded a bank by claiming a Manhattan property was a “second residence” in obtaining $3.4 million loan.

10:01 a.m.: Judge Ellis begins court with mea culpa for outburst over expert. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has raked prosecutors from the special counsel’s office over the coals for the past week and a half. But on Thursday, he backed down, telling jurors to ignore one piece of criticism. “I was critical of counsel for … allowing an expert to remain in the courtroom,” he said before testimony began. “You may put that aside… I may well have been wrong.”

10:37 a.m.: Documents show Manafort claimed Manhattan property was a ‘second residence’ in obtaining $3.4 million loan

With their first witness of the day, prosecutors sought to detail how Paul Manafort defrauded Citizens Bank – obtaining a $3.4 million loan in part by falsely claiming a property he owned in New York was a second residence, rather than a rental property.

Mortgage loan assistant Melinda James, who works at Citizens Bank, described for jurors how in 2016 Manafort sought what is known as a $3.4 million cash-out refinance on a property he owned on 29 Howard St. in lower Manhattan. What that means, James testified, is Manafort was essentially seeking to refinance so he could get cash for the equity in the property.

As he questioned James, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye flashed for jurors the mortgage documents Manafort signed and emails Manafort wrote attaching documents to support his loan application. That is important because defense attorneys have sought to cast blame for the fraud of which Manafort is accused on his business partner, Rick Gates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge in Manafort Trial Is a ‘Caesar’ in His Own Rome, Emily Cochrane and Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 9, 2018. The message Judge T.S. Ellis III gives lawyers in his court is clear: Keep questions on point, move briskly and show some respect.

Aug. 8

New York Magazine, The Whole Republican Party Seems to Be Going to Jail Now, Jonathan Chait, Aug. 8, 2018. The entire Trump era has been a festering pit of barely disguised ongoing corruption. But the whole sordid era has not had a 24-hour period quite like the orgy of criminality which we have just experienced. The events of the last day alone include:

It has been, in sum, quite a day.

donald trump make great logoSome level of corruption is an inescapable part of political life in general, and certainly Democrats are not (and never have been) immune to it. But it has been especially chronic in the modern Republican Party, whose last experience with control of government ended in a series of corruption scandals so blatant they provoked widespread soul-searching on the right as to how the party and the conservative movement could so easily open itself up to grifters. (Remember Jack Abramoff? Bob Ney? Tom DeLay? Grover Norquist?) The temptation to use government as a vehicle for self-enrichment is especially strong in a party dedicated to a credal skepticism about the possibility government can do good.

Several possible explanations present themselves. Trump appears to select for greed and dishonesty in his cronies. (Collins does not work in the administration, but was Trump’s first endorser in Congress.) The sorts of people Trump admires are rich and brash and disdainful of professional norms, and seem unlikely to rat on him. The sorts of people who are apt to work for Trump seem to be those who lack much in the way of scruples.

The administration is understaffed and disorganized to the point of virtual anarchy, opening up promising avenues for insiders to escape accountability. Trump’s public ethos, despite his professions during the campaign that he could “drain the swamp” and impose a series of stringent ethics reforms, runs toward relativism — he famously tolerates anybody who supports him, regardless of criminal history or other disqualifications, defining their goodness entirely in terms of personal loyalty. And above all there is the simple fact that Trump himself is a wildly unethical businessman who has stiffed his counterparties and contractors, and worked closely with mobsters, his entire career. A president who is continuing to profit personally from his office is hardly in any position to demand his subordinates refrain from following suit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort’s Lawyers Accuse Gates of Multiple Affairs, Kenneth P. Vogel and Noah Weiland, Aug. 8, 2018. Lawyers for Paul Manafort accused his longtime deputy Rick Gates, shown below, of having four extramarital affairs and lying about them, a last attempt by the defense to undermine the credibility of the government’s star witness at the fraud trial of Mr. Manafort on Wednesday.

rick gates cropped aug 2018Kevin Downing, the lead lawyer for Mr. Manafort, offered no evidence of either the affairs or Mr. Gates’s misrepresentation of them, and the judge, T.S. Ellis III, cut off the questioning before Mr. Gates could directly respond to the allegations.

The exchange marked a dramatic conclusion to Mr. Gates’s testimony against his former boss, which spanned three days in federal court here in the trial of Mr. Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges brought by the special counsel.

Mr. Gates provided hours of damning testimony against Mr. Manafort related to their decade of work together on behalf of Russia-aligned Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs. Mr. Gates accused Mr. Manafort of deliberately hiding income from the Ukraine work in foreign bank accounts to evade federal taxes, as well as personally directing the falsification of financial statements to obtain bank loans.

Aug. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 6: Gates explains how millions were funneled to Manafort, Justin Jouvenal, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Aug. 7, 2018. Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege that he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We’ll have live coverage here throughout Day 6 of the trial.

Rick Gates is now testifying that he gave a bank fraudulent home insurance documents at Paul Manafort’s request, so that his boss could get a loan from Citizens Bank.

Manafort had told a representative from the bank that he had no mortgage on a townhouse he owned in Brooklyn, Gates explained. But when the bank first got documents from insurance broker Donna Duggan they showed there was a mortgage on the home.

ny times logoNew York Times, Paul Manafort Trial Live Updates: After a $215,000 Tax Bill, Manafort Writes ‘This Is a Disaster,’ Staff report, Aug. 7, 2018. Rick Gates, the former right-hand man to Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign chairman, is testifying in Mr. Manafort’s trial on bank and tax fraud charges in Alexandria, Va.In late 2015 and 2016, Mr. Manafort’s political consulting firm had no clients. Prosecutors led him through a clinical examination of his and Mr. Manafort’s business dealings, including how he hid income to avoid taxes.

Mr. Gates said that in March 2016, when he and Mr. Manafort joined a “presidential campaign” in the United States — he did not name Mr. Trump’s bid for office — the firm had no clients. He said vendors and accountants were dunning Mr. Manafort about his unpaid bills.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews

Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, left, and Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates, a former aide and business partner to Manafort for a decade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 6: Gates explains how millions were funneled to Manafort, Justin Jouvenal, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Aug. 7, 2018. Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege that he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We’ll have live coverage here throughout Day 6 of the trial.

Rick Gates is now testifying that he gave a bank fraudulent home insurance documents at Paul Manafort’s request, so that his boss could get a loan from Citizens Bank.

Manafort had told a representative from the bank that he had no mortgage on a townhouse he owned in Brooklyn, Gates explained. But when the bank first got documents from insurance broker Donna Duggan they showed there was a mortgage on the home.

Aug. 6

ny times logoNew York Times, Rick Gates Says He Committed Crimes With Paul Manafort, Sharon LaFraniere and Emily Cochrane, Aug. 6, 2018. For decades, Mr. Gates was right-hand man to Mr. Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who is accused of tax and bank fraud. He began testifying in federal court on Monday. Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s right-hand man for years, began testifying against his former boss on Monday in federal court in Alexandria, Va. He is considered the most important witness in Mr. Manafort’s trial on tax and bank fraud charges.

Asked by prosecutors whether he was involved in any criminal activity with Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates responded, “Yes.”

Mr. Gates also testified that he and Mr. Manafort held 15 foreign bank accounts that were not disclosed to the federal government. Mr. Gates said the required financial filings were not submitted “at Mr. Manafort’s direction.”

rnc logoMr. Gates admitted to a wide variety of crimes, including bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, lying to federal authorities, lying in a court deposition and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr. Manafort’s accounts by falsely claiming expenses.

Mr. Manafort was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, but resigned from the campaign in August 2016 after just five months. Mr. Gates, the deputy chairman, remained on the campaign as a liaison to the Republican National Committee through the election. Mr. Gates was named deputy chairman of Mr. Trump’s inaugural campaign, raising huge sums for the event.

Aug. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 4: Accountant says she went along with alleged tax fraud because she was afraid to confront Manafort, Justin Jouvenal, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky and Moriah Balingit, Aug. 4, 2018 (print edition). Accountant Cindy Laporta has testified at length Friday about how Rick Gates sent her backdated documents in an effort to help Paul Manafort pay less in taxes and secure loans. In one such effort, Laporta said Manafort turned to her when his bookkeeper wouldn’t help.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Was Deep in Debt and Saw an Opportunity in Trump, Matt Apuzzo, Eileen Sullivan and Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 4, 2018 (print edition). Prosecutors in Paul Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial say he was desperate for money. Why, then, did he volunteer to work unpaid in a top post in the Trump campaign?

Aug. 3

Washington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 3: Bookkeeper testifies about Manafort’s overseas accounts, unpaid bills, Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal and Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 3, 2018 (print edition). Heather Washkuhn testified that the company made about $400,000 in 2015, contradicting financial documents sent by Paul Manafort’s business partner, Rick Gates, which indicated the firm made $4.5 million that year.

Attorneys for Manafort, President Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, hope to rebut allegations of his financial wrongdoing by portraying him as the victim of Gates.

Manafort is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller (shown at right), investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Here is what happened on the third day of the trial.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Manafort's "deep state" trial judge, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 3, 2018. Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and lobbyist for eastern European oligarchs and Third World dictators, could not have a better judge in his federal trial in Alexandria, Virginia than Thomas Selby ("T.S.") Ellis.

Ellis, who is 78, was nominated to the bench of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia by Ronald Reagan in 1987. Ellis's court, for which he is senior judge, is nicknamed the "rocket docket" because of the speed at which it has deliberated and concluded several national security cases involving the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI. These are often adjudicated with plea agreements with no chance for examination and cross-examination of witnesses or presentation of evidence.

Ellis has instructed the prosecutors, defense team, and jury that the name "Trump" is immaterial to the Manafort case. During a pre-trial hearing, Ellis demonstrated his Republican bias when he told prosecutors, "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud . . . What you really care about is what information Mr. Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment. …The vernacular is to 'sing.'"

Aug. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 3: Bookkeeper testifies about Manafort’s overseas accounts, unpaid bills, Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal and Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 2, 2018. Heather Washkuhn testified that the company made about $400,000 in 2015, contradicting financial documents sent by Paul Manafort’s business partner, Rick Gates, which indicated the firm made $4.5 million that year.

Attorneys for Manafort, President Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, hope to rebut allegations of his financial wrongdoing by portraying him as the victim of Gates.

Manafort is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Here is what happened on the third day of the trial.

Aug. 1

paul manafort cnn

Paul Manafort shown in a 2016 cable screenshot when he was Donald Trump's presidential campaign manager

Roll Call, 5 Things You Should Know From the Paul Manafort Trial, Day 2, Griffin Connolly, Aug 1, 2018. President swings at a straw man and prosecutors mull shelving ‘star witness’ Rick Gates. Day Two of the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown below in a mug shot) is in the books. The day featured testimony from five witnesses — including Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign chief — and dozens of pages of evidence on Manafort’s lavish lifestyle.

paul manafort mugThe high-powered political consultant is facing 18 counts and a maximum 305-year prison sentence if the Eastern Virginia jury finds him guilty. These are the five biggest takeaways from Day Two and how the trial turns from here:

1. thomas ellis iii headshotThe president is tweeting at a ‘no collusion’ straw man. Saying it loud for the people in the back: THIS IS A TAX EVASION AND BANK FRAUD TRIAL. None of the 18 counts against Manafort deal with collusion or conspiracy with a foreign nation, and the word Russia has not been mentioned through the trial’s first two days.

2. The defense may have turned the tables on the prosecution with ‘star witness’ Rick Gates. U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye shocked the courtroom Wednesday when he told Judge T.S. Ellis III, right, that the trial’s supposed star witness, Manafort right-hand man Rick Gates, might not be called to the witness stand. “He may testify, he may not,” Asonye said. “We’re trying to shorten the trial.”

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, Prosecutors say Manafort’s wealth fueled by lies to IRS and banks, Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal, Rosalind S. Helderman and Devlin Barrett​, ​Aug. 1, 2018 (print edition). In their opening statement at Paul Manafort’s trial on 18 charges of financial fraud, prosecutors said that President Trump’s former campaign chairman failed to pay taxes on some of the millions he made working in Ukraine, and then lied to banks to get loans when those payments stopped.

February

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Manafort money machine: A decade of lavish spending, influence-peddling and alleged fraud, Marc Fisher, Feb. 25, 2018 (print edition). Before they joined the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates made millions from foreign dictators. In a richly detailed expanded indictment, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III  parted the curtain shielding how the Washington influence merchants worked the system.

As Donald Trump crisscrossed the nation promising to drain the swamp, two of his top advisers were busy illegally building a colossal fortress of riches deep inside that swamp, according to federal prosecutors.

For a decade prior and on through Trump’s populist crusade, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates used offshore accounts, hidden income, falsified documents and laundered cash to maintain Manafort’s lush life of multiple homes, fine art, exquisite clothes and exotic travel, the government says.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2In a richly detailed expanded indictment filed Thursday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III parted the curtain shielding how two longtime Washington influence merchants worked the system. The government contends that Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for five months before being fired, used people all around him, from his buddy Gates (with a beard and shown at right of Manafort) to banks, clients and the IRS, to build a life of conspicuous consumption.

fbi logoGates, who was Manafort’s deputy in their lobbying firm and on the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, cutting a deal with prosecutors to give them information that could help Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Special counsel files new charges in Manafort, Gates case, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 22, 2018. The filing ratchets up the legal pressure on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, as they prepare for a trial later this year on fraud and money laundering charges. The new indictment filed by Robert S. Mueller III contains 32 counts, including tax charges.

Paul Manafort was using fraudulently obtained loans and tax-cheating tricks to prop up his personal finances as he became chairman of the Trump campaign in 2016, according to a new 32-count indictment filed against him and his business partner Thursday.

rick gatesThe indictment ratchets up pressure on Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates (shown at left), who were already preparing for a trial that could come later this year on fraud and money laundering charges.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, and served as the campaign chairman from June to August of that year. Gates also served as a top official on Trump’s campaign. The new indictment offers a more detailed portrait of what prosecutors say was a multi-year scheme by Manafort and Gates to use their income from working for a Ukrainian political party to buy properties, evade taxes and support a lavish lifestyle even after their business connections in Kiev evaporated.

January

Shocking Profile Of Former Trump Campaign Manager Manafort

paul manafort lawnewz dcma

Former Trump-Pence 2016 Campaign Manager Paul Manafort (file photo)

The Atlantic, American Hustler / The Plot Against America, Franklin Foer, Jan. 29, 2018 (March 2018 Issue). Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington.

Republican National Convention DecodedThe clinic permitted Paul Manafort one 10-minute call each day. And each day, he would use it to ring his wife from Arizona, his voice often soaked in tears.

donald trump make great logo“Apparently he sobs daily,” his daughter Andrea, then 29, texted a friend. During the spring of 2015, Manafort’s life had tipped into a deep trough. A few months earlier, he had intimated to his other daughter, Jessica, that suicide was a possibility. He would “be gone forever,” she texted Andrea.

His work, the source of the status he cherished, had taken a devastating turn. For nearly a decade, he had counted primarily on a single client, albeit an exceedingly lucrative one.

viktor yanukovychHe’d been the chief political strategist to the man who became the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych (shown at left), with whom he’d developed a highly personal relationship. Manafort would swim naked with his boss outside his banya, play tennis with him at his palace (“Of course, I let him win,” Manafort made it known), and generally serve as an arbiter of power in a vast country.

tom barrackheadshot“I really need to get to” Trump, Manafort told an old friend, the real-estate magnate Tom Barrack (shown at right), in the early months of 2016. Barrack, a confidante of Trump for some 40 years, had known Manafort even longer. When Manafort asked for Barrack’s help grabbing Trump’s attention, he readily supplied it.

Once an indispensable man, he had not been missed in professional circles. He was without a big-paying client, and held heavy debts.

His attempts to prove his entrepreneurial skills had ended as expensive busts. “He has too many skeletons,” Andrea had written her sister soon after he had entered the clinic, noting that his work in Ukraine was legally dubious. “Don’t fool yourself,” she had texted Jessica a few months before. “That money we have is blood money.”

OpEd News, Analysis: Mueller's End Game: Maybe As Soon As Trump Wants, But Not How He'd Like, Robert Weiner and Kyle Fleck, Jan. 29, 2018. It's clear the pace of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is rising to a crescendo.

djt on phone white house photoIt's important to note Mueller's history as an institutionalist. To protect the institution of the Presidency, he may call Trump (shown in a file photo by the White House) an "unindicted" co-conspirator for obstruction, paralleling the special prosecutor's charges against Richard Nixon in Watergate. He may do the same with violation of federal campaign law and money laundering.

robert mueller olderBut he's shown he won't be so kind to the people in Trump's orbit. Ty Cobb, Donald Trump's lead attorney, has a habit of making rosy predictions for when Mueller (shown above right in a file photo) will be wrapping up his inquiry into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election. With the interview of AG Sessions and 20 White House advisors completed, Mueller is now scheduling interviews of Trump's closest associates and the President himself.

devin nunes head oThe latest act that Mueller will look at when building his obstruction case will be the push to release a memo written by Devin Nunez (R-Ca., shown at left) Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Trump's latest push, to release the Nunes cherry-pickings memo despite the DOJ virtual "cease and desist" letter, where Assistant Attorney General, Stephen Boyd, emailed Nunes not to release the memo, saying the release would be "extremely reckless," is just more obstruction — and Mueller will see it that way too. He'll also see it as a violation of classified regulations.