Four Remarkable Revelations From Manafort Trial
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Paul Manafort’s trial entered Day 4 this morning in Alexandria, Virginia, with the former Trump campaign manager continuing to battle multiple federal counts of bank fraud and tax evasion. So far, Manafort’s former business partner, Rick Gates, has yet to testify — and if he does, Gates will be the prosecution’s star witness. Manafort’s attorneys, however, have been doing everything possible to discredit Gates and paint him as untrustworthy.
Despite the fact that President Trump’s former campaign manager is facing multiple felony charges, his diehard supporters are maintaining their loyalty; although Trump has low approval ratings among the general population, he continues to poll favorably among his hard-right base.
But that doesn’t make “Managate” any less troubling.
Here are four of the most shocking allegations that prosecutors have brought to the jury’s attention so far during Manafort’s trial.
1. Prosecutors Allege That Manafort Received Over $60 Million from Ukrainian Oligarchs
Government prosecutors allege that Manafort evaded taxes on $15 million worth of income he earned while promoting former Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych. Uzo Asonye, one of the prosecutors, told jurors that Yanukovych was Manafort’s “golden goose” — and according to Asonye, Ukrainian oligarchs who ran entire industries in that country paid Manafort over $60 million over the course of a decade to promote Yanukovych’s interests.
2. Ukrainian Oligarchs Allegedly Bankrolled Manafort’s Lavish Lifestyle
One of Manafort’s attorneys has argued that if he intended to break the law, why would he leave evidence lying around? But that is no defense, and prosecutors have had plenty of evidence to present to the jury.
According to Asonye, Manafort lived a very lavish lifestyle thanks to the Ukrainian oligarchs — one that included paying millions in cash for homes in the U.S., driving a Mercedes Benz convertible and purchasing a $15,000 ostrich jacket and a $21,000 watch. And when the oligarchs quit paying, Asonye alleged, he filed false documents with banks in order to maintain his cash flow. Manafort, Asonye alleged, hid most of his income and brought accountants, bookkeepers and bank officials into the scheme “in order to get and keep money. [Manafort] even lied about where he was living.”
3. Former Bernie Sanders Campaign Strategist Testifies That Manafort Ran an “Incredible” Political Operation for Viktor F. Yanukovych
One of the witnesses who testified for the prosecution on July 31 was Thomas A. Devine, a Democratic political consultant Manafort hired to develop a media strategy for Yanukovych. In 2016, Devine was the chief strategist in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign — and when Manafort’s lawyers tried to analyze Devine’s politics, they appeared to be trying to show that he was biased against Republicans. Nonetheless, Devine testified that Manafort ran an “incredible” operation in order to revive Yanukovych’s political career. Although Yanukovych’s political career seemed to be plummeting in 2005, he went on to win Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election — only to be ousted in 2014.
4. Manafort Paid Gigantic Bills Through Shell Companies in Cyprus
So far, Manafort’s trial has included intricate details on his big-spending habits — which also included $7500 for a silk suit and spending $3 million over a four-year period for construction work on his family’s residences in Manhattan, the Hamptons and northern Virginia in the Washington, DC suburbs. And prosecutors have tried to demonstrate that Manafort had a habit of paying his huge bills through shell companies and banks in Cyprus (a Mediterranean island country where Russian oligarchs have kept a considerable amount of money).
One of the prosecution’s witnesses, Maximillian Katzman — manager of the upscale Alan Couture store — testified that of his 40 regular customers, Manafort was the only one paying through international wire transfer. Some of the purchases Manafort made via wire transfers through Cyprus, prosecutors said, included a Mercedes Benz for his wife and a $19 million home in Arlington, Virginia for his wife.
Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.