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Paul Manafort guilty

A jury found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on eight charges in his bank and tax fraud trial, a verdict that has major implications for the president and his allies.

Mr. Manafort, 69, is the first person to be convicted in a trial on charges emerging from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The president has continually raged against the investigation, referring to it as “rigged” and “a witch hunt.”

The judge declared a mistrial on the 10 counts on which the jury could not agree on a verdict.

The conviction in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom is more than a reflection of the evidence piled up against Mr. Manafort. It is a also a win for Mr. Mueller who can claim the guilty verdict proves the legitimacy of his work to a public growing weary of the 14-month investigation.

It also gives ammunition to Mr. Trump’s opponents on the left, who will no doubt press Mr. Mueller to keep digging to see if he can link the president – who was barely mentioned in the Manafort trial – to the Russian interference.

Mr. Manafort could face more than 300 years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines give Judge T.S. Ellis the authority to reduce Mr. Manafort time in prison. But even with a possible reduction, the one time head of the Trump campaign, will likely spent the rest of his life in prison.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for later this year.

Mr. Manafort is also facing separate charges of failing to register as a foreign agent and lying to federal investigators in Washington, D.C, later this year. That trial is set to start in late September. Although the guilty verdict in the Alexandria case may motivate the Manafort legal team to pursue a plea deal in the Washington case.

The verdict Wednesday concludes nearly four days of deliberations and a three week trial where prosecutors from Mueller’s team presented 27 witnesses and roughly 400 documents as evidence.

The government alleged Mr. Manafort stashed more than $ 60 million in 31 overseas accounts in a scheme to avoid paying taxes on money he made in the Ukraine. Prosecutor Greg Andres described the accounts in Cyrpus and other countries as “huge dumpster of hidden money.”

Those accounts were used to make some remarkable purchases, prosecutors said. Mr. Manafort bought a $ 15,000 ostrich skin jacket, an $ 18,500 made from a python and more than $ 330,000 in clothing from House of Bijan, a Beverly Hills men’s boutique with as the “world’s most expensive store.”

Prosecutors Mr. Manafort’s income dried up in 2014, when the Ukrainian political party he worked for was removed from power. Then, Mr. Manafort allegedly lied to three different banks to obtain more than $ 20 million in loans to pay for his luxurious lifestyle.

“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied to get more money when he didn’t,” Mr. Andres said during closing arguments.

Defense attorneys rested without calling any witnesses. Instead, they urged jurors to reject the testimony of Rick Gates, a former Manafort business associate who pleaded guilty in February to the same charges. Mr. Gates cut a deal with Mr. Mueller’s team to testify against his former mentor.

On the witness stand, Mr. Gates, who also briefly worked the Trump campaign, admitted to inflating his income on credit card and mortgage applications, embezzling from Mr. Manafort and an extramarital affair.

“To the very end, he lied to you,” Kevin Downing, a Manafort attorney told jurors.

Even Mr. Andres sought to distance himself from Mr. Gates testimony, telling jurors they didn’t have to like him, but should compare his testimony with the stories told by Mr. Manafort’s accounts and lawyers, who detailed a complex tax and bank fraud scheme.

“The star witness in this case is the documents,” Mr. Andres said.

Defense attorneys also took swipes at the special counsel’s office. Another Manafort attorney, Richard Westling, implied during his closing arguments that his client’s prosecution was a politically motivated effort to hurt Mr. Trump.

He said the banks never reported the purported fraud “until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions.” He accused the Mueller team of selectively pulling Mr. Manafort’s financial records to “concoct a narrative.”

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