Takeaways from day one of the Paul Manafort trial

Paul Manafort's criminal trial kicked off with a furious start Tuesday as the federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virgin...

Posted: Aug 1, 2018 11:24 AM
Updated: Aug 1, 2018 11:24 AM

Paul Manafort's criminal trial kicked off with a furious start Tuesday as the federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, found a jury, heard opening statements and saw the first witness testify.

President Donald Trump was also following the developments of Manafort, his former campaign chairman, from Air Force One, and had his legal team giving him updates.

This is the first criminal trial brought by the team of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Here are five takeaways:

Flipping Is Off the Menu?

This trial is really happening. After months of speculation of whether Manafort would "flip" on his campaign associates and Trump, Manafort never reached a deal with prosecutors.

Mueller's team plans to rely on a boatload of documents, emails and witnesses to paint Manafort as a serial liar who deceived the federal government, his own accountants and banks and orchestrated his business associates into setting up a criminal financial enterprise.

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye started the first words of the trial with this line: "A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him."

There were rumblings of a deal Monday night, after defense lawyers and the Justice Department jointly agreed to drop Manafort's appeal of the loss in his civil lawsuit challenging Mueller's authority. Yet no plea materialized in court Tuesday.

RELATED: Paul Manafort trial tracker

He could always change his mind, plead guilty and agree to cooperate with Mueller's investigation into Russian collusion at any time before a jury returns a verdict.

But why wouldn't Manafort roll the dice on the jury and hope for the President's sympathies now?

Trump has offered pardons to several others, especially to those convicted of public corruption crimes, and tweeted his support of Manafort. "Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns," tweeted the President, who would be the sole person with power to pardon Manafort if he's convicted in this case. "Very unfair!"

All About Gates

Manafort's relationship with his right-hand man, Rick Gates, appears to be over.

Defense attorney Thomas Zehnle focused more than half of his opening statement on Gates, calling him the prosecution's "star witness" and, conversely, calling him an embezzler. He described how his team would show how Gates "did it" -- that is, handled much of Manafort's business dealings that the government says were criminal, while also swindling Manafort.

Gates pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in DC federal court related to his dealings with Manafort in February -- effectively flipping on Manafort -- and prosecutors dropped the part of the case against him in Virginia. One of those crimes was lying to investigators, Zehnle pointed out in an early attack on his trustworthiness.

If Manafort successfully cuts into his longtime deputy's credibility, that could spell problems for the entire Mueller investigation. Gates has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department for as long as it sees fit, and prosecutors told him long ago they sought his help in their core mission of investigating Russian interference in the presidential election, according to CNN reporting. (The allegations at issue in Manafort's case barely touch his and Gates' work on the Trump campaign.)

A Whiff of Russia

Democratic political consultant Tad Devine's appearance as the first witness may signal that the jurors will be schooled on Ukrainian politics.

Devine worked with Manafort and his team of associates on political campaigns in the region for years. And for almost an hour, prosecutor Greg Andres walked Devine through his knowledge of several Manafort contacts and business strategies in the Eastern European country, including his contact with oligarch and Party of Regions backer Rinat Akhmetov.

The former Ukrainian president for whom Manafort did the most work, Viktor Yanukovych, fled to Russia after losing power in 2014 and is now considered to be closely aligned with President Vladimir Putin.

Devine also discussed how Manafort and Gates in 2014 sought unsuccessfully to pivot toward helping a budding opposition party and working for the current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

Manafort's jury of peers

Six men and six women will decide Manafort's guilt. The 69-year-old faces a maximum sentence of more than 300 years in prison if these Northern Virginians side against him.

When the courtroom filled with jurors Tuesday morning, they looked much like Manafort -- largely middle-aged, white. Two potential jurors said they were "recovering attorneys," while four said they were former or current federal government employees.

However, none of those individuals made the jury.

Not much is known about the 12 individuals and four alternates. These people in the courtroom will be known only by their juror numbers and their observable appearances during the trial: Juror 145, Juror 299, Juror 276, etc. Almost three-quarters of the jury is white. At least four jurors are younger than Manafort.

What's left are a few people who closed their eyes during the hours of proceedings Tuesday. Several who put on glasses for the start of opening statements. And one man who looked unhappy to be chosen then took close notes.

Lightning Speed

Before heading into Tuesday, court-watchers expected a slow start to the trial, with the jury selection process to last up to two days and for opening statements to start on the third day. Judge T.S. Ellis had other ideas. The pace so far has repositioned the trial from one that could bore jurors and get bogged down in financial technicalities to one that's whipping by.

Ellis set a tight schedule for opening arguments Tuesday: 30 minutes or less. Asonye and defense lawyer Thomas Zehnle kept each of their summations of the case to about that time.

And then following a short break, prosecutor Greg Andres began to question Devine. Andres pelted questions at a quick clip and showed more than a dozen documents to the jury as evidence of Devine and Manafort's Ukrainian work. At about a half hour into Andres' questioning of Devine, Ellis cut in. How much more with this witness, he asked. "Move it along," Ellis said.

Day two begins Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 996341

Reported Deaths: 16245
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1343262101
Lake658231151
Allen57160791
Hamilton45963460
St. Joseph43954607
Elkhart35546503
Vanderburgh31975473
Tippecanoe27694256
Johnson24821440
Hendricks23647353
Porter22735362
Madison18538404
Clark18383248
Vigo17274300
Monroe15117197
LaPorte14987249
Delaware14931256
Howard14574286
Kosciusko12166147
Hancock11597175
Bartholomew11447179
Warrick11225188
Floyd10983214
Wayne10840248
Grant9898217
Morgan9361176
Boone8819115
Dubois8210129
Dearborn815492
Henry8107150
Noble7944106
Marshall7786134
Cass7462119
Lawrence7379168
Shelby7115114
Jackson691788
Gibson6480113
Harrison641591
Huntington630299
Knox6269105
DeKalb623796
Montgomery6184109
Miami586595
Putnam573477
Clinton567171
Whitley558055
Steuben550473
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Jefferson504695
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Scott433968
Greene421196
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White414261
Decatur4118101
Fayette402186
Jennings383260
Posey374243
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Washington352049
Randolph339999
Spencer336442
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Sullivan326652
Starke310868
Owen310169
Fulton304566
Orange290562
Jay278445
Perry264452
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Carroll258232
Rush257232
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Crawford158122
Newton155648
Benton150117
Brown144047
Martin137319
Switzerland133911
Warren120116
Union106615
Ohio84012
Unassigned0532

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1494160

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1623021662
Cuyahoga1442512412
Hamilton1042291409
Montgomery729771240
Summit607921094
Lucas55462904
Butler50923707
Stark457361053
Lorain34972568
Warren32373369
Mahoning30168672
Clermont27861321
Lake26543434
Delaware23920162
Licking23442283
Trumbull22420552
Fairfield22117241
Greene22014311
Medina21673305
Clark19567349
Richland18260280
Portage17616247
Wood17174220
Allen15672269
Miami15305296
Muskingum14481174
Columbiana13656263
Wayne13538263
Tuscarawas12415298
Marion11760175
Scioto11336154
Pickaway11264141
Erie10613180
Ross10425196
Lawrence9638137
Hancock9504149
Ashtabula9410197
Belmont9086197
Geauga8795157
Jefferson8455191
Huron8193139
Union809156
Washington8009137
Sandusky7677145
Athens767072
Knox7571138
Darke7530151
Seneca7184144
Ashland6776125
Auglaize664896
Shelby6392111
Brown627382
Crawford6159130
Mercer606793
Defiance6059102
Fulton590596
Highland587199
Madison585776
Clinton575190
Logan569092
Guernsey568467
Preble5640121
Putnam5238108
Williams516784
Perry511761
Champaign502971
Jackson495470
Ottawa477886
Coshocton468382
Morrow449056
Pike429962
Fayette420760
Adams409987
Gallia409865
Hardin409276
Van Wert362378
Henry357171
Holmes3549122
Hocking350378
Wyandot316561
Carroll295459
Paulding275145
Meigs257849
Monroe212153
Noble195646
Morgan190132
Harrison177842
Vinton161724
Unassigned05
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Sunday is another cool day with breezy conditions and plenty of sunshine.
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