By Sharon LaFraniere
New York Times News Service
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted Tuesday in his financial fraud trial, bringing a dramatic end to a politically charged case that riveted the capital.
Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on 10 of the 18 counts and the judge declared a mistrial on those charges.
The trial did not touch directly on Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election or on whether Trump has sought to obstruct the investigation. But it was the first test of the special counsel’s ability to prosecute a case in a federal courtroom amid intense criticism from the president and his allies that the inquiry is a biased and unjustified witch hunt.
Before and during the trial, Trump both sought to defend Manafort as a victim of prosecutorial overreach and to distance himself from him, saying that Manafort had worked for him only relatively briefly.
The trial focused on Manafort’s personal finances, in particular the tens of millions of dollars he made advising a political party in Ukraine that backed pro-Russia policies.
Defense lawyers had argued that Rick Gates, Manafort’s former right-hand man and the government’s star witness, was the real mastermind of the frauds. Gates had been charged along with Manafort in the case but pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Manafort in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
The defense lawyers also suggested Manafort had been targeted by prosecutors to pressure him into cooperating with Mueller’s inquiry into possible collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia in the 2016 election.
In his summation last Wednesday, Greg D. Andres, the lead prosecutor, told the jurors that the essence of the scheme was not complicated. “Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and lied to get more money when he didn’t,” he said.