ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – The jury began deliberations in the fraud and tax evasion trial of former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on Thursday, and if he is found guilty on all 18 charges, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The 12 jury members retired to discuss the testimony and evidence, along with their verdict, after more than two weeks listening to the presentations of both the prosecution and the defense.
Judge T.S. Ellis, well-known for his stridency and his criticism of prosecutors, reminded the jury before they began their deliberations that they could take all the time they needed to arrive at their verdict.
Over the past 12 days, the jury has listened in silence to the evidence presented by prosecutors working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the so-called Russia probe into potential links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin, although the charges in this first trial of Manafort are not directly related to his work as Trump’s campaign manager.
Prosecutors presented evidence that they contended showed that Manafort – a multimillionaire, luxury-loving adviser with foreign banks accounts – falsified his financial data to secure huge loans and illegally reduce his taxes.
After this trial concludes, Manafort on Sept. 17 will face a second trial – this one squarely in the zone covered by the Mueller investigation – in a Washington court, in which he has also pleaded not guilty.
Since May 2017, Mueller has been independently investigating for the US government the possible links between members of the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which US intelligence agencies accuse of interfering in the 2016 presidential election to favor Trump.
Manafort allegedly worked for foreign governments between 2006-2017, including pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, and for Russian oligarchs, whom he helped improve their images in Washington without registering those activities with the US government, an omission that constitutes a crime.