Manafort's lawyers blame Gates in bank fraud trial

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court

"It seems to me we're seeing deeper ties that Manafort has had financially with his business deals in the Ukraine and with Russian Federation", said Shanlon Wu, a former lawyer for Manafort associate Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in February and is aiding Mueller's probe.

Prosecutors have lined up 35 witnesses and more than 500 pieces of evidence they say will show how Manafort earned more than $60 million (U.S.) from his Ukrainian work and then concealed a "significant percentage" of that money from the IRS.

Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort on Tuesday becomes the first member of the president's election team to face trial on charges stemming from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 vote.

Gates, a longtime business associate of Manafort and a onetime senior Trump campaign aide, pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts: conspiracy against the US and lying to federal authorities.

Paul Manafort, 69, who chaired the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016, was accused of putting "himself and his money above the law" by laundering tens of millions of dollars derived from pro-Moscow groups in Ukraine.

Opening remarks by Manafort's lawyer, Thomas Zehnle, gave an indication of his defense tactic - singling out Gates.

"My guess is you will see OJ-type frenzy at this court event", said Michael Caputo, a former Trump aide and longtime Manafort associate, referring to the 1995 OJ Simpson murder case.

"A$3 s a result of time consuming trial preparation for that matter (which the Special Counsel has estimated will last approximately three weeks), Mr. Manafort requires additional time to confer with the Special Counsel regarding the contents of the Joint Pretrial Statement in this matter".

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Mueller's original mandate was to investigate not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, but also any other crimes arising from the probe. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Manafort hid 30 foreign bank accounts from United States authorities. It will feature testimony about the business dealings and foreign ties of a defendant Trump entrusted to run his campaign during a critical stretch in 2016, including during the Republican convention.

"Bob Mueller is totally conflicted", Trump continued. The 12-person jury comprises six men and six women.

"Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and "Public Enemy Number One", or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling", Trump wrote in a tweet.

Five witnesses have been granted immunity from prosecution to testify against Manafort. "He worked for me for a very short time".

Zehnle warned jurors that Gates could not be trusted and was the type of witness who would say anything he could to save himself from a lengthy prison sentence and a crippling financial penalty.

FILE - Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC.

They said he did not wilfully mislead or deceive the Internal Revenue Service, and that he was betrayed by Gates, who pleaded guilty to making false statements after being indicted by Mueller. The second trial, scheduled for September in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests. Three Russian companies have also been charged.

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