Paul Manafort trial is first court test for special counsel Robert Mueller

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The long-awaited trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort began Tuesday in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that 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. The indictment says he and associate Rick Gates moved money from Ukraine through foreign bank accounts to hide it from the Internal Revenue Service. Manafort faces 18 criminal counts, to which he has plead not guilty.

Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State University, said the evidence against Manafort, 69, appeared strong but that he drew a favorable judge in the 78-year old T.S. Ellis, who is known to be tough on prosecutors. It is set to last at least three weeks.

As campaign manager, Manafort was responsible for all aspects of Trump's White House bid, including shoring up delegate support.

Paul Manafort goes on trial in Alexandria federal court on bank- and tax-fraud charges brought by the special counsel investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

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Yanukovych's ouster in 2014 is relevant, the special counsel says, "because it explains Manafort's work for a different political party (the Opposition Bloc) and why his income later drops dramatically, which is relevant to the bank frauds that he later committed". Still, Reid points out that the pardon power is broad enough for Mr. Trump to pardon Manafort at any time for the crimes he has been charged with in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

He said Trump could help the public understand what is at stake in Mueller's investigation, which both Trump and Caputo have called a "witch hunt" aimed at ending his presidency.

Prosecutors have said they don't plan to offer evidence related to the Russian Federation case, and that references to Manafort's association with the Trump campaign will be limited.

A list of 30 witnesses submitted by prosecutors includes luxury rug dealers, clothiers, real estate agents and others who would be expected to describe how Manafort spent money.

Mueller's team requested the immunity, saying the witnesses refused to testify or would refuse to answer certain questions if not given protection.

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