Former Trump campaign chairman and longtime political operative Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of fraud early Tuesday evening, the first Trump associate to be found guilty by a jury in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation.
According to CNBC, Manafort was found guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failing to file foreign bank account reports.
The mammoth court ruling is the culmination of a tense, weeks-long trial, involving hundreds of pieces of evidence, in which Manafort’s attorneys painted him as a victim of business associate and former Trump campaign staffer Rick Gates’ embezzling scheme, and suggested he was innocent of all charges against him. In the end, jurors appeared split on 10 of the 18 counts against Manafort; the judge on the case, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, declared a mistrial on those 10 counts, which may be tried again later.
Manafort was accused of laundering as much as $65 million in foreign funds from lobbying work he completed on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from 2010 to 2014, funneling the money through several offshore bank accounts to avoid paying taxes. When funding from that work dried up, prosecutors said Manafort falsified documents to obtain at least $20 million in loans, in order to finance his lavish lifestyle, which included millions of dollars in home renovations, luxury clothing and vehicles, and landscaping, among other things.
Manafort’s attorneys nonetheless attempted to portray him as a victim of Gates, who admitted earlier this month to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort during that time period by writing off false business expenditures. Gates reached a plea deal with Mueller’s team in February in exchange for his cooperation in the case, and on August 6, Gates testified bluntly to jurors that he and Manafort had “commi[tted] crimes” together.
Manafort served as Trump’s campaign manager from May through mid-August 2016, when he resigned amid reports of his close associations with Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine for Russia in February 2014 following the bloody Euromaidan revolution, and the pro-Russian Party of Nations. However, he maintained in close contact with Trump and his associates after leaving the campaign, offering suggestions on potential cabinet appointments.
One of those suggested appointees was a man named Stephen Calk, head of Federal Savings Bank, who served as an economic adviser on Trump’s campaign and whom Manafort floated to current senior adviser Jared Kushner in late November 2016 as a possible secretary of the Army. An email between the two men, produced in the course of the trial, showed Kushner accepting the suggestion and agreeing to pass it along to the White House transition team.
At the time, Manafort failed to disclose that Calk had allegedly secured him millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained loans months prior, in exchange for a position in the Trump administration.
The trial against Manafort was the result of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as allegations of collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials, and possible obstruction by Trump himself. Mueller’s team became interested in Manafort due to his connections with Russian figures, as well as the alleged pay-for-play scheme between him and Calk.
Manafort now faces a second trial in federal court in Washington, D.C. this September, for seven similar charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and making false Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) statements.
He is the fourth Trump associate who has plead or been found guilty on criminal charges. Others before him include Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December; George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, who pleaded guilty to similar charges in October 2017; and Gates, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of lying to investigators in February this year.