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Paul Manafort found guilty of fraud

August 21, 2018

Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort has been found guilty of eight counts of tax evasion and fraud. The judge has declared a mistrial on 10 other counts, on which the jury was hung.

USA - Ermittlungen zur Russland-Affäre - Paul Manafort
Image: Reuters/Y. Gripas

Paul Manafort, a longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump's winning 2016 presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes on Tuesday, but a judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts, on which the jury could not agree.

The verdict, which almost certainly guarantees years in prison, is the first trial victory of an investigation into Trump's associates, establishing the ability of special counsel Robert Mueller's team to persuade a jury.

What Manafort was convicted of:

  • All five counts of tax fraud he faced
  • One count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts
  • Two of the nine counts of bank fraud

'Evaluating his options'

Manafort's lawyer, Kevin M. Downing, told a press conference on Tuesday that he was disappointed and his client would be "evaluating his options."

Trump, who was on his way to a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, said he was "very sad" about the conviction and dismissed suggestions that the verdict was related to collusion with Russia on the part of his presidential campaign.

"I feel very badly for Paul Manafort," Trump said upon arriving in West Virginia Tuesday night. "It does not involve me. It has nothing to do with Russian collusion, we continue
the witch hunt."

US Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, cautioned Trump not to pardon Manafort.

"Any attempt by the president to pardon Mr. Manafort or interfere in the investigation into his campaign would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress," Warner said in a statement. Warner also said that the verdict refuted Trump's "witch hunt" claims.

James Comey on Conflict Zone

Special counsel investigation victory: After months of public attacks from Trump, the investigation headed by former FBI Director Mueller, recorded its first convictions as it probes Russia's role in the 2016 US presidential election. Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, also pleaded guilty to finance violations. Trump has characterized the investigation as a "witch hunt" and "rigged."

Why was there a mistrial? Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on 10 of the 18 counts, seven of which are bank fraud charges, after the jury, which deliberated for four days, told him that it could not reach a verdict on those charges.

What was Manafort accused of? Prosecutors argued that Manafort, 69, was hiding $16 million (€13.8 million) from US tax authorities, money that he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine. They also accused him of lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian income dried up. The charges against Manafort largely predate his work on Trump's presidential campaign.

How is Manafort connected to Trump? Manafort worked for five months on Trump's successful presidential campaign, including three months as chairman. Manafort's role in the campaign was reduced in August 2016, and he resigned as campaign chairman after Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of far-right media outlet Breitbart News, and Kellyanne Conway, currently a counselor to the president, took on senior leadership within the campaign.

dv/rc (AP, Reuters)