What does Mueller have? Manafort trial offers glimpse

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The figures emerged in court filings ahead of Paul Manafort's trial on Tuesday on tax and bank fraud charges.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Monday gave up his effort to challenge special counsel Robert Mueller in civil court.

The indictment was brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director who is looking into Russian meddling in the presidential election, but the charges are not connected to Manafort's time as Trump's campaign chairman.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that Mr Manafort's lavish spending on suits, homes and luxury items did not match the income declared on his tax returns and that he misled lenders when he borrowed tens of millions of dollars against NY real estate.

They claim that when Mr Manafort's income from consulting and foreign lobbying dried up, he lied to banks to get loans to maintain his lavish spending.

The trial is a major test for Mueller's team, which is facing a fresh onslaught of attacks from President Donald Trump and Republicans, who are using lies and exaggerations to blast Mueller and his investigators as biased against the president.

Turley said Manafort may be "playing a pardon strategy".

"He'd be in worse position than he was when he started", Akerman said. But none of the cases stemming from Mueller's probe have gone to a jury trial - until now.

"My guess is you will see OJ-type frenzy at this court event", said Michael Caputo, a former Trump aide and longtime Manafort associate, referring to the 1995 OJ Simpson murder case. The president seized on those words and said Judge Ellis "is really something special, I hear from many standpoints".

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Manafort was present during the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that was set up after a Kremlin-linked lawyer offered up dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to members of the Trump campaign. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

"To the extent that public opinion affects the Mueller probe, he'll then have to ask himself whether he needs to change course", said Barak Cohen, a former federal corruption prosecutor.

His testimony will be significant for "helping to explain how the puzzle pieces all fit together", Little said, particularly as Gates worked so closely with Manafort.

"It seems to me we're seeing deeper ties that Manafort has had financially with his business deals in the Ukraine and with Russian Federation", said Shanlon Wu, a former lawyer for Manafort associate Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in February and is aiding Mueller's probe.

Manafort's defense team has filed a flurry of motions - to suppress evidence gathered from a Virginia storage unit, to challenge the mandate of the special counsel and to delay the trial - almost all of which it has lost so far. He has questioned how the indictment of Paul Manafort on financial charges relates to Mueller's investigation on alleged 2016 Russian election interference.

But the judges presiding over the two cases ruled that they could proceed.

Gates pleaded guilty in February to charges of conspiring against the US and of making false statements to the federal government.

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud related to his lobbying activities on behalf of the former Russian-backed government of Ukraine.

Prosecutors plan to produce almost three dozen witnesses during the trial, including Manafort's former associate Richard Gates, who is cooperating with the government after pleading guilty to lesser charges in February.

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