AP: 'Manafort trial to focus on lavish lifestyle, not collusion'

The first trial brought by the Mueller special counsel team will begin jury selection Tuesday, and, if this AP report is correct, class envy is the focus.

Eric Tucker and Chad Day write:

The trial of President Donald Trump's onetime campaign chairman will open this week with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultant's pocket.

What's likely to be missing: answers about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, or really any mention of Russia at all. ...

"I don't anticipate that a government witness will utter the word 'Russia,'" [prosecutor Greg] Andres said.

Presumably, there will be evidence of alleged financial crimes related to money-laundering, but the sort of lifestyle shaming that the AP reports is shameless:

Jurors are expected to see photographs of his Mercedes-Benz and of his Hampton property putting green and swimming pool.  There's likely to be testimony, too, about tailored Beverly Hills clothing, high-end antiques, rugs and art and New York Yankees seasons tickets.

The luxurious lifestyle was funded by Manafort's political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine's president in 2014.

As Dita Sullivan quipped, "So...they're going to arrest the Kardashians...?"

At least Judge Ellis, who is trying the case, is aware of the potential for abuse via juror manipulation.

At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will preside over the trial, warned prosecutors to restrain themselves, noting the current "antipathy" toward Russia and how "most people in this country don't distinguish between Ukrainians and Russians."  He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others "at a cocktail party with scantily clad women," if they exist.

Manafort has refused offers of a plea deal, and at least part of his defense may be a challenge to the legitimacy of the prosecution:

The trial will afford the public its first glimpse of a defense that so far has focused less on the substance of the allegations than on Mueller's authority to bring the case in the first place.  At one point, his defense lawyers sued Mueller and the Justice Department, saying they had overstepped their bounds by bringing a prosecution untethered to the core questions of Mueller's investigation – whether Russia worked with the Trump campaign to tip the election.

Ellis rejected that argument despite having initially questioned the special counsel's motives for bringing the case.  He noted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, had explicitly authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort's business dealings.  Mueller's original mandate was to investigate not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but also any other crimes arising from the probe.

There will be massive coverage of this trial.  Maybe the Kardashians will show up?

Photo via Wikipedia.

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