Former Trump campaign chairman pleads not guilty to charges
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman will face trial in Virginia before he faces trial in the District of Columbia.
A federal judge in Alexandria on Thursday set a July 10 trial date for Paul Manafort. A grand jury there indicted Manafort on charges that he hid from the Internal Revenue Service tens of millions of dollars he earned advising pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.
Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, had asked for a trial date in November, citing the complexity of the case. Prosecutors said they were ready to start the trial in May.
U.S. Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III picked the July date, though he did not foreclose the possibility of granting an extension to the defense if warranted.
Most of the charges against Manafort have been filed in the District of Columbia, where Manafort is scheduled for trial in September. But prosecutors say they were required to bring the tax and bank fraud charges in Virginia because they lacked venue in the nation’s capital. In court papers, prosecutors said they asked Manafort if he’d be willing to waive venue and have the case consolidated in the District, but he refused.
The 32-count indictment issued by the Alexandria grand jury accuses Manafort of laundering $30 million through offshore accounts, to disguise income he earned from his work in Ukraine and shield it from federal taxes. The indictment also accuses him of bank fraud, saying that when his income from the Ukraine dried up, he lied on mortgages and loan applications about his finances.
At Thursday’s court hearing, Ellis questioned whether a 32-count indictment was overkill and should be simplified for a jury. Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann responded that only 18 of the counts directly apply to Manafort; the other 14 apply to Manafort’s associate, Richard Gates, who struck a plea deal last month and no longer faces charges in Virginia.
Ellis also questioned the efficiency of running simultaneous prosecutions in the District and Virginia, though he acknowledged that Manafort could not be forced to waive his right to be tried in the proper venue.
The charges are part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections. Downing said the charges against Manafort go beyond the authority of Mueller’s mandate, and advised the judge he will move to dismiss the case on those grounds. He already has filed a civil suit in the District, making the same argument.
Manafort did not speak during the hearing, which was his first appearance in Virginia. His lawyer officially entered a not guilty plea on Manafort’s behalf.
The judge imposed similar bail conditions on Manafort to those already in place in the District, including home confinement. But because the District and Virginia use different systems, Manafort will be required to wear two distinct monitoring devices.