Paul Manafort: The Big Questions

The political world was rocked on Tuesday by news of Paul Manafort’s conviction. What does his future look like? And what does this mean for Trump and the Russia Investigation? 

By Sabrina Schnurr

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign leader, was convicted of eight counts of fraud on Tuesday: five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. This came as a victory for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors’ evidence that Manafort hid millions of dollars in foreign accounts to avoid taxes and lied to banks to obtain large amounts of loans. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 10 counts, and a mistrial was declared on those charges. The verdict was read out in United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., only minutes after Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law and other charges.

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Some see this conviction as Mueller’s team passing its first big test in court. In terms of the Russia investigation, none of the charges were directly related to alleged collusion, but the evidence portrayed Manafort as someone who would have been a perfectly impressionable target for a foreign power.

After the verdict, Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, said he would consider all his options. But Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, told NBC News his client has no plans to cooperate. Maloni said he expects Manafort to appeal his conviction and move forward.

“I do not think he’s willing to go off and serve that sentence and hope he outlives it,” Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor, said on MSNBC. “So if we assume he’s not going to go down that path, he’s got two choices: One is cooperate, and two is wait and hope for a pardon.”

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In classic Trump fashion, the president took to Twitter after the news broke. “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

Since Manafort chose to divide the cases rather than face a single trial, he heads to Washington for the next trial starting Sept. 17, involving allegations of money laundering,  foreign lobbying, and false statements to the FBI. The evidence is expected to be more extensive, the charges more substantial, and the sentence longer.

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