Criminal Trial Lawyers Washington DC
Lobbyist Paul Manafort served as campaign chair for the Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign from June 20 2016 to Aug. 19, 2016. A year later, Manafort was arrested and has gone through two criminal trials, which were the first cases brought to trial by Robert Mueller’s special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Before serving as Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort had long been a controversial figure in politics, lobbying for foreign leaders and in 2004 he became an advisor the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian politician with strong ties to Vladimir Putin. The FBI reportedly began a criminal investigation into Manafort in 2014, before Donald Trump had announced his candidacy.
On June 20, 2016, Trump fired Corey Lewandowski and promoted Manafort to the position of campaign manager.However, in August 2016, Manafort’s connections to Yanukovych made headlines and stories came out that Manafort may have illegally received an undocumented $12.7 million from the Party of Regions. On Aug. 19, Manafort resigned as campaign chairman.
On Jan. 18, 2018, the day before Trump’s inauguration, outlets reported that Manafort was under active investigation by multiple federal agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Director of National Intelligence and the financial crimes unit of the Treasury Department.
In July 2017, the FBI obtained a search warrant and raided Manafort’s home under charges of interference with the 2016 election. On Oct. 27, 2017, Manafort and his business assistant Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury as part of Mueller’s investigation. In the 12-count indictment, which arises from Manafort’s consulting work prior to the Trump campaign, they were charged with conspiracy against the United States, making false statements, money laundering, and failing to register as foreign agents for Ukraine, which is required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Manafort was charged with four counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Gates was charged with three.
On February 23, 2018, Gates entered a plea bargain, pleading guilty in federal court to lying to investigators and engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the United States. He admitted that he had lied to investigators in February 2018 while he was under indictment and negotiating with prosecutors. Gates agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation for a possible sentence reduction, possibly only probation, depending on his cooperation with the government. Following his former assistant’s plea deal, Manafort released the statement, “I continue to maintain my innocence.” On February 28, 2018, Manafort entered a not guilty plea in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
On July 31, 2018, Manafort’s first criminal trial, which was on 18 counts, began. During the trial, Gates testified that he had committed both tax evasion and embezzled with Manafort. Gates also admitted to an extramarital relationship, which he funded with money embezzled. Manafort was found guilty on eight counts, including covering filing false tax returns, bank fraud, and failing to disclose a foreign bank account. There was a mistrial declared on the remaining 10 counts due to a single juror harboring reasonable doubts.
A retrial then occurred on the remaining 10 counts. Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering. He also admitted to the remaining charges, forfeited several properties and accounts, and agreed to fully cooperate with the prosecution.
Manafort was scheduled to be sentenced in early February 2019 for his convictions in the Virginia case. However, on Jan. 28, Judge TS Ellis postponed the sentencing date until further notice due to Manafort’s controversy over his plea agreement in the D.C. court. Ellis wrote, “Because it appears that resolution of the current dispute in defendant’s prosecution in the District of Columbia may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case, it is prudent and appropriate to delay sentencing in this case until the dispute in the DC case is resolved.”
Meanwhile, Manafort’s D.C. trial, presided over by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in the U.S. District Court began on Sept. 14, 2018. In the D.C. case, Manafort was set to be tried on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent, money laundering, witness tampering and making false statements. However, three days before the voir dire was set to begin, both parties negotiated a plea deal and Manafort pleaded guilty to two charges: conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering. He also admitted to all other charges against him, both in D.C. and Virginia. As part of the deal, those charges will be dropped if prosecutors are satisfied that he has fully cooperated with them. Additionally, Manafort agreed to the forfeit three bank accounts, a life insurance policy, and five New York properties, which have been estimated at $22 million and two of which were purchased with offshore funds as a form of money laundering, according to prosecutors.In the plea deal, Manafort further agreed to “testify fully, completely and truthfully before any and all Grand Juries in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, and at any and all trials of cases or other court proceedings in the District of Columbia and elsewhere.”
A tentative sentencing date for Manafort’s guilty plea in the D.C. case has been set for March 2019.
In another twist, Mueller’s office filed court papers on Nov. 26, 2018 stating that Manafort had repeatedly lied about a number of matters, which breaches the terms of his plea agreement. Manafort’s attorneys have disputed the claims. On Dec. 7, 2018, the special counsel’s office filed a document which lists five areas in which they say Manafort lied to the counsel, thus negating the plea deal. Manafort’s attorney also revealed that his client had been briefing White House attorneys about his interactions with the special counsel’s office.