- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The first trial to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is set to start Tuesday when former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort appears before a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mr. Manafort is facing 18 criminal counts, including bank and tax fraud, which could net him 30 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The charges stem from Mr. Manafort’s lobbying in the Ukraine on behalf of politicians with ties to Russia. Prosecutors have alleged he was paid more than $60 million for his work, which includes support of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yankovich.

SEE ALSO: Paul Manafort earned $60M from Ukrainian consulting work, prosecutors say

Government attorneys say Mr. Manafort engaged in a scheme to hide his income from the IRS and other authorities in the United States. Instead of paying taxes on the income, they say he used it to support a lavish lifestyle that included three homes, a $21,000 watch, a $105,000 car and New York Yankees season tickets.

Roughly 500 pieces of evidence and up to 35 witnesses are expected to be presented by prosecutors. One of those witnesses is Mr. Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates. He was charged along with Mr. Manafort, but pleaded guilty and has cooperated with Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Manafort’s work as a Ukrainian political operative occurred nearly a decade before he took over the Trump campaign in mid-2016. He organized the Republican convention in July 2016, but quit President Trump’s team one month later.

Prosecutors have said they will not present evidence of Russian collusion during Mr. Manafort’s trial, but have claimed they have the authority to prosecute him under a May 2017 order by Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein.

Mr. Manafort’s attorneys have attacked that order, claiming that Mr. Mueller exceeded his authority. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who is overseeing the Virginia trial, denied their motion, holding that Mr. Mueller’s mandate authorizes him to pursue charges against in the case.

The Virginia trial is the first of two that Mr. Manafort will face this year. He has a September trial scheduled in Washington, D.C., on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent and making false statements to investigators.

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