Federal Judge Hands Manafort a July Trial Date

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A federal judge in Virginia on Thursday set a July 10 trial date for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on charges of bank and tax fraud associated with work he performed for Ukrainian lobbyists.

Manafort appeared at the federal courthouse in Alexandria shortly after 1:30 p.m. He did not speak in court and did not respond to reporters’ questions as he arrived and left the building.

A judge in Washington had previously set a trial date for Sept. 17 on an earlier set of charges from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort said he will fight the charges despite the fact his longtime aide, Rick Gates, is now cooperating with Mueller’s office.

During Thursday’s hearing, Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing broached the idea of an extension for the trial date with U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

“If you will allow me to put on my rose-colored glasses for a moment,” Downing said. “In my rosy view, I was hoping to try this in November?”

“You should go back to the optometrist then,” Ellis retorted.

Later, announcing the July trial date, Ellis said: “ It’s not only Mr. Manafort’s right to a speedy trial, but it’s the public’s right as well.”

Attorney Andrew Weissman, representing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, told the judge he expects the government will bring forward 20 to 25 witnesses.  He also estimated the trial will stretch to no more than 10 individual trial dates.

It was the second time in two weeks that Manafort entered a not guilty plea to federal charges. He appeared in the federal court in Washington on Feb. 28 to plead not guilty to 17 grand jury charges of conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, lying to federal agents and failing to register as a foreign agent.

An additional 18 counts were levied against Manafort in Virginia. The split in venues, prosecutors explained, is because the alleged crimes also occurred in the Eastern District.

According to the superseding indictment filed by Mueller on Feb. 22, from 2006 through the present, Manafort served as a representative for the Ukrainian government, specifically, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yankukovych.

Prosecutors claim Manafort concealed his lobbying activities connected to the pro-Russia government in Ukraine by laundering millions of dollars and hiding his bounty in offshore accounts in locales like Cyprus, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles.

Manafort is also accused of having altered a slew of financial statements connected to a consulting business he shared with partner Richard Gates.

The alterations exaggerated his income so he could take out mortgages on properties he owned for years in New York City and the Hamptons, using the funds to pay for luxury items, clothes, trips, tuition and home renovations, prosecutors said.

They believe Manafort laundered $30 million before Yankukovych was ousted from the Ukraine in 2014, but in total “more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts,” the superseding indictment said.

Gates who was a Trump campaign aide, pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 for lying to the FBI and for conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

In return, Mueller agreed to drop 22 tax and bank fraud charges against him.

None of the charges brought against Manafort specifically involve Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

After Gates plead guilty last month, Manafort released a statement through spokesman Jason Maloni reaffirming his his confidence that he will be acquitted of all charges.

“The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and the 2016 election interference/collusion,” Maloni said.

Meanwhile, at the federal court in Washington, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she will hold a motion hearing on April 4 to consider whether a lawsuit Manafort against the Department of Justice should be be dismissed.

Manafort filed the complaint on Jan. 3 alleging Mueller’s Russia probe is overly broad. He requested the Justice Department rescind Mueller’s appointment.

Manafort argued Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was guilty of overreach when he allowed Mueller to expand the probe beyond possible meddling in the 2016 election.

The Justice Department responded with a 35-page brief last week, saying Manafort could not use a civil lawsuit to attack ongoing criminal proceedings.


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