One thing Donald Trump is very good at is distraction. Since Friday he has posted a few dozen crazy tweets that have made many people forget that his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is currently on trial.
If we go back and look at how things have gone for Manafort so far we see that the news is all bad. In fact, some experts have said that the evidence presented by prosecutors during the first four days of the trial is so damning that it’s pretty much guaranteed that Manafort will be found guilty on multiple counts.
John Dean, who testified against Richard Nixon put it this way on Twitter:
“For those in the weeds: Manafort’s bookkeepers pretty much gave him a one way ticket to jail with their testimony— one admitted (w/ immunity) he had cheated on his taxes with her knowledge. Not sure his former partner in crime, Rick Gates, is even needed as a witness.”
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Here’s a recap of the evidence prosecutors presented last week:
The prosecutors seem to have proven that Manafort failed to report a “significant percentage” of the more than $60 million they say he received from Ukrainian oligarchs.
They have shown the jurors how that money was put into more than a dozen shell companies and then stashed in secret bank accounts in Cyprus.
Both Manafort’s accountants and his bookkeeper testified that they never knew the companies and the corresponding offshore bank accounts were controlled by Manafort and used to hide income from the IRS.
In the coming week Manafort’s right-hand man and longtime associate, Rick Gates, is supposed to testify. He has already pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors. At this point it seems that testimony from Gates might not even be necessary to convict Manafort, but whatever he has to say will certainly be compelling and will capture the attention of the jury.
Because the evidence is so solid and clear-cut, prosecutors have told the judge that they may wrap up their case this coming week.
Looking at the big picture, we have to remember that Mueller’s goal is to get a quick conviction against Manafort.
Doing this will legitimize his entire investigation and show it is not a witch hunt or a hoax, as Trump has claimed.
It will also show a lot of other people that Mueller is not messing around, and thus it will strengthen his hand in future negotiations. Remember there are a lot more indictments that may be handed out in coming weeks and months against potential defendants.
Paul Manafort will also have to go through a second federal trial this fall in Washington with an entirely new batch of criminal charges that are not only more complex but are also very closely related to the Trump-Russia scandal.
In this trial we haven’t heard anything about Russia or conspiracy or collusion, but that’s OK. For Mueller this trial is just a stepping stone for him to move on to bigger and better things — and for him to keep catching bigger fish as he casts a wider net to bring to justice the many people involved in criminal conspiracies — including potentially the President of the United States.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.
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