President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight of the 18 counts he faced in a federal bank and tax fraud trial, while Judge T.S. Ellis III said there was a mistrial on the other 10 counts. He was found guilty of bank and tax fraud, along with hiding a foreign bank account.
The partial verdict came Tuesday after four days of deliberations by the jury in Alexandria, Virginia.
The prosecution of Manafort was, so far, the most prominent public move by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators and prosecutors. Others caught up in the investigation so far pleaded guilty and cooperated in exchange for leniency—including Manafort’s longtime associate Rick Gates—or are Russian intelligence operatives. Manafort decided to fight for as long as possible, even if it meant a humiliating trial and the possibility of a stiff prison term.
The trial largely focused on Manafort’s efforts to avoid paying taxes on overseas income and his subsequent fraudulent inflation of his income, the latter of which he used to obtain bank loans that subsidized his lavish lifestyle, after his earnings from pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians dried up. Manafort faces another set of charges in Washington, D.C., including for failing to register as a foreign agent, in a trial set to start in September.
While Manafort clearly faced such an aggressive investigation and prosecution because of his involvement with the Trump campaign and his political associations in Ukraine, references to Manafort’s work within the campaign came up sparingly. The one notable exception was the prosecution’s evidence that Manafort tried to use his influence over Trump to win a bank executive—who had approved a massive loan to Manafort—a position in the incoming administration.
The president couldn’t resist weighing in on Manafort’s predicament, almost certainly against the judgment of his advisers. He said last Friday, “It’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort,” and, earlier this month, “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, now serving solitary confinement - although convicted of nothing? Where is the Russian Collusion?”
The prosecution focused its case on documents and testimony from Manafort’s business partners and bookkeepers that showed he was aware of his sprawling overseas finances, which meant the prosecution could argue he was aware of the tax-dodging shenanigans. But when it came to their star witness, Rick Gates, the overall tawdriness of Manafort’s world couldn’t help but seep in. Gates admitted to embezzling money from Manafort’s firm and to engaging in an extramarital affair—or more, as Manafort’s attorneys suggested he had at least four.
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