Judge schedules Manafort trial in Virginia for July
A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., announced Thursday the start date for a trial involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort over charges of bank and tax fraud.
U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis said Manafort’s trial in Virginia will begin July 10, according to multiple reports. It is the first of two trials involving the former Trump aide, who has entered a plea of not guilty.
Prosecutors say they plan to call upwards of 25 witnesses in the Virginia trial while arguments from prosecutors could last up to two weeks, CNN reported.
The news comes weeks after a judge in Washington, D.C., set a trial date in September for the former Trump aide, who faces multiple counts of tax fraud, failing to file reports on foreign bank and financial accounts and bank fraud conspiracy.
Manafort faces 18 criminal charges in Virginia federal court and five in Washington, with the ones in Alexandria carrying a heavier possible prison sentence, CNN noted. The ones in Virginia include alleged bank fraud and lying on income tax returns.
Manafort has professed his innocence and has vowed to fight the charges despite his business associate Richard Gates complying with prosecutors.
The charges stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia. Manafort and Gates are specifically accused of making millions of dollars lobbying for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine before hiding the earnings from the U.S. government through various bank accounts and companies.
“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work,” a February indictment stated. “From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money.”
Gates pleaded guilty last month to charges of conspiracy against the United States and making a false statement as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Manafort has maintained his innocence and expressed his regret that Gates chose to change his plea in a statement last month.
“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” Manafort wrote.
“I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me,” he added.
The special counsel also indicted 13 Russian nationals last month, claiming they were part of an organized effort to steal the identities of Americans and use them to push false, misleading or divisive information on social media in key swing states during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Updated: 5:11 p.m.
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