SO IT BEGINS

Paul Manafort Believed ‘Law Did Not Apply to Him’: Prosecutors

Paul Manafort’s trial kicked off in Alexandria Tuesday, with prosecutors and defense attorneys delivering their opening statements. “All of these charges boil down to one simple issue—that Paul Manafort lied,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye. Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, “believed the law did not apply to him,” Asonye added. Prosecutors said Manafort, who is accused of bank fraud and tax evasion, lied to his tax preparer and bookkeeper, alleging that some of his money remains hidden. Manafort “collected over $60 million” using “shell companies and foreign bank accounts, concealing it from U.S. authorities and bankrolling his extravagant lifestyle,” Asonye said. His lavish purchases included a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich, prosecutors said.

During his opening statements, Manafort’s defense attorney, Thomas Zehnle, blamed all wrongdoing on his client’s former business partner Rick Gates, who has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. “We are primarily here because of one man: Rick Gates,” Zehnle claimed. He also insisted that Manafort didn’t purposefully lie to the Internal Revenue Service, but was unaware of which forms he needed to fill out and declarations he was required to make. Manafort was indicted in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller and faces another trial in September on several charges including money laundering and conspiracy.