What you need to know before Paul Manafort’s trial

Mueller's Team Releases List Of Key Witnesses Against Paul Manafort

The trial of US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is set to begin with tales of lavish spending, secret companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing to his pocket from offshore bank accounts.

It's a significant milestone for the probe, which began exactly two years ago as an Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Among them is former Manafort associate Rick Gates, who in February pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and lying to investigators.

He is scheduled to go on trial in the United States capital in September on separate charges brought by Mueller of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to register as an agent of a foreign government.

Mr Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty, faces 18 counts.

In recent months, prosecutors in Mueller's office have produced detailed indictments charging at least Russian 25 individuals and three Russian companies with crimes related to election interference, including hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, money laundering and stealing USA citizen's identities.

The trial, starting with selection of a 12-member jury, coincides with growing speculation that Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen may cooperate with federal investigators against the president.

Gates worked as Manafort's deputy when he was chairman of the Trump campaign. 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.

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T.S. Ellis, the judge overseeing the case, has called a hearing for Tuesday at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on whether that Ukraine-related evidence can be included. Giuliani said he and Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer, had told the president: "This would be a very bad thing to do now".

Responding to allegations that Manafort took the campaign job with Trump in 2016 to pay off debts he owed to a Russian oligarch, the defense fund website asserts that he was "motivated exclusively by his appreciation and ardor for our country". That leaves Manafort, 69, facing charges that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. However, the government is now recommending that Manafort serve 8 to 10 years if he is convicted.

Prosecutors in Manafort's case have said they may call 35 witnesses, including five who have immunity agreements, as they try to prove that he laundered more than $30 million in Ukrainian political consulting proceeds and concealed the funds from the IRS.

The judge overseeing that trial, Berman Jackson, revoked Manafort's bail last month and ordered him to await trial from a jail cell.

Mueller has released a list of 35 potential witnesses he could call to the stand, including Gates, who is now a key co-operating witness in Mueller's investigation.

Manafort was indicted along with Gates in Mueller's wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of co-operating with the government. He has also put distance between himself and Mr Manafort's charges, saying in a tweet: "This is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign".

The judge told potential jurors the trial would last no more than three weeks.

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