Dispatch July 30, 2018

What You Should Know About The Manafort Trial


Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort goes to trial tomorrow on charges that include alleged bank and tax fraud. The Special Counsel indictments make a clear case for why Manafort would facilitate collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

BACKGROUND:

  • Before joining the Trump campaign, Manafort made his fortune—including almost $13 million in off-the-books payments—working with the pro-Putin Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions.
  • While serving as the top official on the campaign, Manafort reportedly offered personal campaign briefings to the Kremlin-linked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
    • Deripaska and Manafort reportedly had business dealings totaling $60 million; when he joined the Trump campaign, Manafort allegedly “owed Deripaska close to $20 million.”
  • Manafort attended the now-infamous June 9 meeting at Trump Tower along with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and several Russians with links to the Kremlin.

ORIGINAL INDICTMENTS:

  • On October 27, Mueller’s team indicted Manafort and his long-time business associate Rick Gates on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering.
  • Manafort was originally placed under house arrest, with bail set at $10 million.

SUPERSEDING INDICTMETS:

  • In February, two new indictments shed light on how much financial distress Manafort was in between 2015-2017. The indictments allege that: “In the second part of the scheme, between approximately 2015 and at least January 2017, when the Ukraine income dwindled after Yanukovych fled to Russia, MANAFORT, with assistance of GATES, extracted money from MANAFORT’s United States real estate…”
    • The 2015 to 2017 timeframe clearly overlaps with Manafort’s time as Trump’s campaign manager
    • The indictments may not mention his work on the campaign, but they point to a clear explanation for collusion: Manafort was looking to trade on his newfound connections to pay off his debts.
  • A third round of indictments in June added counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice related to alleged witness tampering.
  • The third round also indicted longtime Manafort business partner Konstantin Kilimnik for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
  • In June, he was ordered to jail after being charged with witness tampering while awaiting trial.
    • Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all superseding charges.

As he goes to trial, it is important to remember that Manafort was an integral part of the Trump campaign:

  • Trump himself personally confirmed Manafort’s hiring on March 28, 2016, describing him as “a great asset and an important addition as we consolidate the tremendous support we have received in the primaries and caucuses.”
  • Manafort was promoted to Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist on May 29, 2016, replacing his predecessor, Corey Lewandowski. Hope Hicks, then the Trump campaign’s press secretary, indicated that the “title change should [have been] seen as ‘putting permanence’ to Manafort’s role in the campaign.”
  • Upon his own firing in June 2016, Lewandowski said “Paul Manafort has been in operational control of the campaign since April 7. That’s a fact.”
  • On June 20, 2016 Sean Spicer said of the Trump campaign, “Paul’s in charge.”
  • Manafort was reportedly an all-but-official part of the Trump transition team, advising the president on cabinet picks and even reportedly weighing in on how to respond to the revelation of the Steele Dossier. Manafort reportedly had “a direct line to top decision-makers,” including Vice President Mike Pence, who oversaw the transition.

The Trump campaign will be explicitly mentioned in this trial.

  • Beginning in late 2016, after Manafort’s time on the Trump campaign, he and his family received a total of $16 million in loans from a Chicago-based bank whose CEO Steve Calk reportedly “wanted to be Trump’s Army secretary.”
    • Manafort “allegedly made ‘several materially inconsistent representations during the process of negotiating’ of the loan.”
  • Calk’s involvement in these loans, which is specifically linked to Manafort’s closeness to Trump, clearly shows that Manafort traded on his access even after leaving the campaign.
  • Big question: did Manafort effectively accept a bribe in exchange for the promise of a position in the Trump administration?
  • The Special Counsel’s team has directly indicated that the Trump campaign will be mentioned during the trial in the context of the Calk loans. They allege that seeking positions on the campaign and in the administration motivated Calk.

For more information about Manafort’s background and his links to Russia, see our piece “Everything you need to know about Manafort, contextualized.”