The third day of Paul Manafort’s trial is poised to feature more talk of the former Trump campaign chairman’s lavish lifestyle — as well as more fighting between prosecutors and the judge over showing jurors pictures of Manafort’s luxury purchases.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is also planning to dive into the nuts and bolts of its case against Manafort, who is charged with 18 counts of tax and banking violations, as they are preparing to call Manafort’s bookkeepers and accounts to the witness stand on Thursday.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and the trial is clearly on the mind of his former boss, President Donald Trump, who tweeted several times about the case on Wednesday. While Manafort’s case isn’t about the 2016 campaign, he’s the first defendant Mueller’s team has taken to trial, and the outcome could affect public opinion of the special counsel investigation the President has called a “witch hunt.”
Mueller’s team is quickly moving through its list of witnesses, and nine testified in the first two days of the trial. The prosecution has more “vendors” on tap for Wednesday, in addition to bookkeepers, accountants and a “series of tax preparers.”
The key question now lingering over the prosecution’s case is whether they will call Manafort’s former deputy, Rick Gates, after Mueller’s team raised the prospect Wednesday they might not do so.
Manafort’s defense team has signaled it plans to make Gates a key part of its defense, arguing that Manafort was misled by his longtime deputy.
Over the first two days of the trial, Mueller’s team and Judge T.S. Ellis have clashed over whether prosecutors can show photos of Manafort’s purchases, such as his $15,000 ostrich jacket. Ellis has reminded the lawyers and jurors that it’s not a crime for a person to be rich.
In a court filing, Mueller team’s formally argued they should be allowed to show proof of Manafort’s extravagant lifestyle, including photos of his high-end custom jacket, his real estate expenditures and other extravagant purchases.
Prosecutors say evidence of what Manafort spent his Ukrainian lobbying proceeds on is evidence of the crime itself, and shows how he personally benefited from allegedly defrauding the government.
“That Manafort had an expensive lifestyle that required lots of money to maintain is important proof as to why he would commit the bank frauds” after his lobbying work declined in 2014, prosecutors wrote.