Jury selected for trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman

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A jury set to decide the fate of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been selected with opening statements in his tax evasion and bank fraud trial expected later on Tuesday.

It is the first trial arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

Four alternate jurors were selected in addition to the panel of six men and six women.

While prosecutors are not expected to address the question of possible collusion between Mr Trump and Russia, Manafort’s case is being viewed as a test to the legitimacy of Mr Mueller’s ongoing probe, which the US president has dismissed as a “witch hunt”.

“There was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!” Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Manafort, who is already in custody and could spend the rest of his life in jail, appeared in the federal courtroom in Alexandria in a dark suit with his wife, Kathleen.

He is accused of trying to hide tens of millions of dollars in Ukrainian political consulting fees and using that money to fund a lavish lifestyle, and is the only American charged by Mr Mueller to opt for a trial.

Prosecutors have lined up 35 witnesses and more than 500 pieces of evidence they say will show how Manafort earned more than 60 million dollars (£45 million) from his Ukrainian work and then concealed a “significant percentage” of that money from US tax inspectors.

The pool of jurors faced questions from both sides from both sides and US district judge TS Ellis III as they try to weed out potential prejudice in what has become a highly publicised and politically divisive investigation.

Prosecutors say they will introduce evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a role on the Republican campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration that never materialised.

Protesters outside court
Protesters gathered in front of the Alexandria Federal Court (AP)

The added evidence also appears to include documents related to bank accounts in Cyprus.

At the centre of much of the trial will be another Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, who spent years working for Manafort in Ukraine and is also accused of helping him falsify paperwork used to obtain the bank loans.

Gates, who cut a plea deal with Mr Mueller earlier this year, is expected to testify against his former mentor.

He is also expected to play a key role in Manafort’s second trial, scheduled for September. That trial, set in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that the longtime political consultant acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the US government.

The other 31 people charged by Mr Mueller so far have either pleaded guilty or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom.

Three Russian companies have also been charged. One of those companies has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the allegations in federal court in Washington.

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