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Here are six things you need to know about Paul Manafort’s trial

By Rachel Weiner

July 30, 2018 at 6:00 AM

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Before he joined the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort hadn’t been seen around Washington in a while. He had made a name for himself in the D.C. lobbying world, but he made a fortune overseas, advising strongmen and doing business with oligarchs. Then his past caught up with him. (Dalton Bennett , Jon Gerberg, Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)

Paul Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign chairman from March to August of 2016, faces criminal charges in federal courts in Virginia and D.C. Here’s what to expect from his Virginia trial, which begins July 31.

Related: [From six homes to a city jail: Paul Manafort, who redefined lobbying, faces trial]

What is Paul Manafort accused of doing?

In Virginia, Manafort is accused of failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars he made doing work for a pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine between 2006 and 2015 by having the money wired to foreign shell corporations and then sent to him as “loans.”

He lied about having offshore bank accounts, according to prosecutors, while using those bank accounts to buy expensive properties, fancy clothing and antique rugs.

Alexandria, VA Federal Courthouse (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

Manafort is also accused of lying to banks about his income and debt to get millions more in loans after the Ukrainian party lost power in 2014, using his real estate properties as collateral. He claimed one loan was for construction while he was actually using it to pay off another mortgage, according to prosecutors. He also claimed a condo in SoHo he was renting out on AirBNB was a “second home” and not a rental property to save money on taxes, the court filings allege.

Where does this fit into the Russia investigation?

Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months, and he took part in the Trump Tower meeting that brought Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner together with a Russian attorney who had promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. He also was included on emails where foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos said he trying to arrange a meeting beetween then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Manafort is charged with obscuring his work for a political party backed by Russian oligarchs and, according to the FBI, got a $10 million loan from one oligarch. 

But prosecutors say the issue of Russian involvement in the U.S. election will not be raised at Manafort’s Virginia trial.

“I don’t anticipate the word ‘Russia’ will be uttered by a government witness,” one member of the special counsel team said in a pre-trial hearing.

The only Trump connection they have highlighted does not involve Russia: It is an allegation that Manafort received a favorable loan because the chairman of the lending bank wanted a job in the Trump campaign and White House.

Judge T.S. Ellis III has repeatedly declared that the special counsel is only interested in Manafort because they believe he could provide incriminating information on the president. But he also ruled that the case is well within the scope of the special counsel’s mandate, given that Manafort worked on the campaign and had ties to Russia.

The judge has told Manafort’s attorneys he likely will not allow them to raise the motive of the special counsel at trial, although he will rule on such attempts as they arise.

“Even though I’ve said what I think the motive is, doesn’t mean it’s admissible at trial,” Ellis said at a pre-trial hearing.

How many charges is Manafort facing?

Manafort faces 18 counts in U.S. District Court in Alexandria: five counts of filing false income tax returns, four counts of failing to report foreign bank accounts, five counts of bank fraud conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud.

He also faces seven charges in D.C. federal court in connection with his work in Ukraine: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to register as a foreign agent, making false statements about working as a foreign agent, false statements, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

For how long could he go to prison?

If found guilty on all charges in Alexandria, Manafort could face decades in prison. The bank fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 270 years in prison, the false tax return charges a maximum of 15 years and the failure to report foreign bank accounts, 20 years.

He “faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison,” Ellis wrote in one filing.

But sentencing guidelines call for about four to five years on the bank fraud and eight to ten years for the tax offenses, according to prosecutors.

In Washington, D.C. Manafort faces higher guideline sentences — prosecutors calculated the range at roughly 15 to 20 years, before new witness tampering allegations were added to his indictment.

How much money is involved?

From 2008 to 2014, prosecutors allege, Manafort funneled about $30 million through offshore accounts, including $6.4 million he spent on real estate in New York and Virginia, $5.4 million to renovate his Hamptons home, $1.3 million to improve his house in Florida, a million to an antique rug store and $850,000 at a New York clothing store. Of that, $13 million was disguised as loans to Manafort-controlled companies to lower his tax burden, according to prosecutors.

From 2014 through 2016, Manafort fraudulently obtained $26 million in loans, according to court filings.

How long will the trial be? How many witnesses will testify?

Prosecutors most recently suggested their case would last three weeks, but Ellis has asked them to trim their case as much as possible. They plan to call about 30 witnesses.

Defense attorneys have given no indication of how long their rebuttal case will last.


Rachel Weiner tries to cover Alexandria's federal court from a small windowless room with no cellphone access. She sometimes ventures outside to write about crime in Alexandria and Arlington.

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Public Safety

Here are six things you need to know about Paul Manafort’s trial

By Rachel Weiner

July 30, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Watch more!
Before he joined the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort hadn’t been seen around Washington in a while. He had made a name for himself in the D.C. lobbying world, but he made a fortune overseas, advising strongmen and doing business with oligarchs. Then his past caught up with him. (Dalton Bennett , Jon Gerberg, Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)

Paul Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign chairman from March to August of 2016, faces criminal charges in federal courts in Virginia and D.C. Here’s what to expect from his Virginia trial, which begins July 31.

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