Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

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Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Crossroads Inc. » 2018-07-31 11:06am

In something that may well become a thread in its own right. The first person goes to trial from the Muller investigations...
From NPR
Most tax and bank fraud cases are built on stacks of bland business documents and Internal Revenue Service paperwork — hardly the stuff of international intrigue.

But the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, set to begin Tuesday in a suburban Washington, D.C., courthouse, promises to upend those low expectations.

Lawyers working for special counsel Robert Mueller plan to call witnesses they say demonstrate where Manafort spent his allegedly ill-gotten gains: custom-made suits; Persian rugs; landscaping fees; Land Rovers and Mercedes-Benz vehicles; and season tickets to the New York Yankees, among other items.

It's what may not come up much during the trial in Alexandria, Va., that will draw attention from all over the world: Manafort's work for candidate Donald Trump for a critical period in 2016 when Trump clinched the Republican nomination for president.

In pretrial arguments, prosecutor Greg Andres told the court the government would only bring up Manafort's campaign work in the context of a witness from a bank who gave him a loan, with the expectation that the banker would win consideration for a post in the Trump administration.

"I don't anticipate that a government witness will utter the word 'Russia,' " Andres said.

Manafort's defense team has argued any mention of Trump could be seized on by jurors who have an unfavorable view of the president.

"Evidence or argument relating to Mr. Manafort's work for then-candidate Trump's campaign in 2016 or the Special Counsel's investigation of the campaign's alleged collusion with the Russian government is wholly irrelevant to whether Mr. Manafort's personal income tax returns were false, whether he willfully failed to file reports of foreign accounts, and whether he conspired to commit, or committed, bank fraud," defense lawyers wrote.

Already, Judge T.S. Ellis III has confronted questions about whether prospective jurors can be impartial in the highly charged case. Earlier this month, the judge denied a bid by Manafort to move the case out of Alexandria. The defense had worried voters in Northern Virginia leaned more Democratic than in the western part of the state in 2016, but the Reagan-appointed judge said that was not the standard to assess whether a defendant could receive a fair trial.

"On the basis of the record presented thus far, there is no reason to believe that fair and impartial jurors cannot be found in the Eastern District of Virginia," the judge concluded.

Judge Ellis said he would take the lead in questioning the jury pool. Prospective jurors already have filled out a lengthy questionnaire that asks about their experience with the criminal justice system and their familiarity with Ukraine. Manafort's work for the pro-Russian government in Ukraine plays a central role in the allegations against him, since prosecutors say he concealed income from that work from U.S. tax officials and allegedly laundered more than $18 million in proceeds.

The heart of the government's case involves nine years of Manafort's lucrative lobbying and consulting for Ukraine and its former leader Victor Yanukovych, work the U.S. government said Manafort should have registered with the Justice Department. The grand jury indictment accused Manafort of funneling the money to offshore accounts in Cyprus, the Seychelles and other locations, as well as failing to report it to the IRS.

When Yanukovych fled to Russia, Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates experienced a severe cash crunch, and the men allegedly began leveraging real estate to take out new loans, providing false or incomplete profit and loss statements and other data to banks.


Gates has since pleaded guilty and agreed to help prosecutors with their case, as one of the government's star witnesses. That leaves Manafort, 69, facing charges that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

Manafort's defense team has filed a flurry of motions — to suppress evidence gathered from a Virginia storage unit, to challenge the mandate of the special counsel and to delay the trial — nearly all of which it has lost so far. A legal defense fund set up to help cover his mounting bills praises his "lifetime of service" to "no less than four United States presidents."

Responding to allegations that Manafort took the campaign job with Trump in 2016 to pay off debts he owed to a Russian oligarch, the defense fund website asserts that he was "motivated solely by his appreciation and ardor for our country."

"Hearing the voice of so many Americans who felt unrepresented by our government, Paul helped to define Donald Trump's core beliefs and, along with other remarkably talented individuals, they achieved what is believed to be one of the greatest victories in the annals of any presidential campaign," the defense fund site said.

But that lofty rhetoric stands in contrast to Manafort's current circumstances. His legal burden grew heavier in mid-June, when a different judge, in Washington, D.C., ordered Manafort to jail, as a flight risk. A grand jury in D.C. had indicted Manafort on new charges — of alleged witness tampering — for contacting people who could testify in the cases against him.

Authorities initially detained him more than 100 miles away, to the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va. His lawyers cited the distance in a bid to postpone the trial until autumn 2018 at the earliest.

Instead, Judge Ellis directed U.S. marshals to move Manafort to the detention center in Alexandria, near the courthouse. That facility has housed a variety of prominent defendants including Zacarias Moussaoui, who faced terrorism offenses; and spies Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, among others.

The judge told potential jurors the trial would last no more than three weeks.
But when it is over, Manafort will not quite be done with the justice system.
He faces a separate trial in late September, on related charges, in Washington, D.C.

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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-07-31 12:13pm

Honestly, the September trial interests me more, because that's the one that's going to be constantly in the news in the final run-up to election day, and anything that potentially helps (or hurts) this November is far more important in the big picture than convicting one guy.

Still, fingers crossed for a conviction. Trump is trying very hard to discredit the investigation, and Mueller's credibility is riding on whether his indictments stand up in court.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Crossroads Inc. » 2018-08-07 01:28am

Welp! Update to the story from NPR
Rick Gates Sang Like a Bird

Updated at 6:23 p.m. ET

Paul Manafort's former business partner Rick Gates took the witness stand on Monday for the most highly anticipated — and likely crucial — testimony in Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges.

Gates worked as Manafort's right-hand man over the past decade, and prosecutors say he helped Manafort evade taxes and lie to banks to qualify for loans.

Gates pleaded guilty earlier this year as part of an agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

"Did you commit crimes with Mr. Manafort?" prosecutor Greg Andres asked soon after Gates took the stand and described his relationship with Manafort.

"Yes," Gates said.


Manafort's former bookkeeper and tax accountants have testified that they dealt with Gates in preparing Manafort's financial paperwork. Prosecutors are looking to him for an insider's account of what they say was a scheme by Manafort to use offshore bank accounts, shell companies and wire transfers to avoid paying taxes on tens of millions of dollars of unreported income.

Gates said he knowingly provided false and doctored documents to banks and also said that at "Manafort's request," the two men knowingly kept the fact that Manafort had foreign bank accounts from the IRS.

Defense strategy

But Manafort's legal team is expected to use Gates, too. In his opening statement last week, defense attorney Thomas Zehnle accused Gates of embezzling money from Manafort's consulting firm.

"Rick Gates had his hand in the cookie jar, and he couldn't take the risk that his boss might find out," Zehnle said.

On the witness stand Monday, Gates confirmed that he stole from Manafort. He admitted to embezzling "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from Manafort's firm by filing fake expense reports.

Juries are typically skeptical of witnesses who enter into agreements with prosecutors, said Sam Buell, a former federal prosecutor and a white-collar-law expert at Duke Law School, so he said he was not surprised by the defense's strategy of going after Gates.

Gates has already admitted to lying to investigators once.

Buell also said it's very difficult to find a strategy for defending against fraud charges in cases with an extensive paper trail. Manafort's has included a large amount of such evidence. Gates said Monday that he turned over "document, emails, computers, and phones" to prosecutors.

When that's the case, "You've got to try to find a way to throw a monkey wrench in," Buell said.

Manafort Accountant On Tax Scheme: 'I Regret It'

Prosecutors have been preparing for this credibility battle by asking a number of witnesses to speak to Manafort's role as a supervisor over Gates.

When asked who was in charge in the relationship, Manafort's longtime tax accountant Phillip Ayliff told the jury: "Oh, Mr. Manafort."

Gates, in his testimony, said he first met Manafort at a Christmas party at Manafort's house when Gates was an intern in the 1990s. He added that Manafort was "probably one of the most politically brilliant strategists I've ever worked with."

Throughout the testimony, Manafort was looking at Gates, but Gates kept his eyes on the jury, judge and the prosecutor questioning him.

Gates is expected to take the stand again on Tuesday morning for more questioning from prosecutors, and the defense's cross-examination is expected to take up most of the afternoon.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-14 04:23pm

Prosecution has rested. Shouldn't be long now.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Beowulf » 2018-08-14 05:41pm

Defense has rested. Yeah. They called no one.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Darth Yoshi » 2018-08-15 10:40pm

So, was his defense basically "nuh-uh, you're all lying meanies" without anything to actually back it up? Am I understanding correctly?
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-15 10:45pm

Darth Yoshi wrote:
2018-08-15 10:40pm
So, was his defense basically "nuh-uh, you're all lying meanies" without anything to actually back it up? Am I understanding correctly?
That appears to be pretty much it, yeah. Plus some attempts to attack Gates' credibility and suggest that he was really the one behind it all.

Another interpretation is that his "defense" is actually "See Putin, I'm not talking. Please don't polonium poison my family."
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-16 09:45pm

Seven hours into the deliberations, the jury requests that the judge clarify the meaning of "Reasonable Doubt", among other questions (video from CNN):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvgRIddh4vgRIddh4w8

The judge told them they'd have to rely on their recollections, but clarified that "beyond a reasonable doubt" does not mean "beyond any possible doubt".

Well fuck me, that's not at all concerning... Also, isn't that something that should have been made crystal clear to the jury from the outset?

If Manafort is found not guilty on one count but gets convicted on the rest or something, I doubt that it will much matter. But if he's cleared on most or all counts... there's still the second trial, but it would be an enormous blow to Mueller's and the investigations' credibility, and therefore to the chances of holding Der Fuhrer's regime accountable to the law. I honestly expect that the result would be that a lot of people would come around to the "witch hunt" narrative (even though there is already more than enough evidence on the public record to charge Donald Trump with Obstruction of Justice), undermining the election prospects of the Democrats and potentially giving Trump a pretext to shutdown the investigation without much outcry.

Or maybe not. OJ Simpson was found not guilty, and pretty much nobody bought it for a second. But either way, it'll be a fucking cluster fuck.

Another possibility (and more likely than an acquittal, in my opinion) is that there's at least one doubter on the jury, and we're going to get a fucking hung jury.

Best case scenario: the jury is just doing their job and being thorough. We'll have to wait and see.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-16 09:57pm

The correct link (I hope), since its too late to edit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvgRIddh4w8
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Crossroads Inc. » 2018-08-17 12:17am

God, that is fucking Terrifying...
Him being guilty will be one more rock on the pile that leads up to vindicating Mullers end game.
But if he is let off the hook on even ONE charge... Its going to be a cluster and I am sure is going to embolden Trump even more to call for Muller to be stopped and the investigation halted for good.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-08-17 10:50am

I really, really doubt that Manafort will be found not guilty on the bulk of the charges.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-17 05:46pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-08-17 10:50am
I really, really doubt that Manafort will be found not guilty on the bulk of the charges.
I doubt he'll be found outright not guilty. But all it takes is one juror who watches too much Fox News to give us a hung jury.
Crossroads Inc. wrote:
2018-08-17 12:17am
God, that is fucking Terrifying...
Him being guilty will be one more rock on the pile that leads up to vindicating Mullers end game.
But if he is let off the hook on even ONE charge... Its going to be a cluster and I am sure is going to embolden Trump even more to call for Muller to be stopped and the investigation halted for good.
Eh, I don't think it would be too catastrophic if he walked on one and got nailed on seventeen. But if numerous charges end in an acquittal or hung jury, that might give Trump the pretext to fire Mueller without too much backlash, and move the witch hunt narrative from a more partisan stance to something closer to a national consensus. Which would be catastrophic, yes.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-17 07:35pm

The judge has received death threats, and will not release the jury's identities:

https://www.rawstory.com/2018/08/judge- ... formation/

Sadly not surprising at all, but a reminder of how low some people will sink to disrupt the rule of law for political reasons. I do wonder if the knowledge that they might be subject to violent political reprisals if their identities become known could be causing some hesitation among the jurors.

I also wonder if these are just random Trumpers, or if any of these threats will end up being traced back to the GRU.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Tribble » 2018-08-18 08:08am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-08-15 10:45pm
Darth Yoshi wrote:
2018-08-15 10:40pm
So, was his defense basically "nuh-uh, you're all lying meanies" without anything to actually back it up? Am I understanding correctly?
That appears to be pretty much it, yeah. Plus some attempts to attack Gates' credibility and suggest that he was really the one behind it all.

Another interpretation is that his "defense" is actually "See Putin, I'm not talking. Please don't polonium poison my family."
Another possibility is that the defence lawyer has knowledge of his guilt, and could not legally put him on the stand to testify.

So the defence is not that he is innocent, but rather that the state does not have enough evidence to prove guilt.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Knife » 2018-08-19 02:35pm

There has been a parade of former prosecutors on TV saying a jury asking a judge to clarify what 'reasonable doubt' is is fairly normal. Nothing to get wonky about yet.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-20 02:08pm

Yeah, we'll have to wait and see how it goes.

Personally, I'd still bet on "conviction on most charges" as the likeliest outcome. Its possible that we could get an acquittal, or more likely a hung jury, on one or two charges.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-21 01:09pm

The jury sent another request to the Judge this morning, asking how they should fill out the verdict form if they could not reach an agreement on one count. The Judge instructed them to keep trying to find a verdict, but subsequently indicated that he might accept a partial verdict (as sometimes happens in cases with multiple counts).

So, as it is very difficult to believe that the jury could have reached a unanimous "Not Guilty" on 17 counts given the thoroughness of the prosecution's case and the weakness of the defense, the likeliest outcome right now appears to be guilty on seventeen, hung jury on one.

That would still be enough to put Paul Manafort away for the rest of his life, but of course the Trumpers would focus entirely on the one to bolster their "witch hunt" narrative.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-21 01:32pm

Of course, another possibility is that of the 17 they appear to have reached a decision on, some are guilty verdicts and some are not guilty verdicts. But the likeliest outcome, in my opinion, is guilty on most or all charges but the one hold-out.

I imagine we'll know before much longer, if its just one count that's still under debate.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Enigma » 2018-08-21 05:06pm

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-trum ... op+News%29
Trump aide Manafort found guilty on eight of 18 charges
Karen Freifeld, Nathan Layne

2 Min Read

ARLINGTON, Va. (Reuters) - Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on Tuesday on eight charges of tax and bank fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, after a jury said it could not reach consensus on the other 10 charges against him.
FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

The jury, after almost four days of deliberations, found Manafort guilty of two of nine bank fraud charges, all five tax fraud charges he faced and one of four charges of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on 10 of the 18 counts, after the jury told him it could not reach a verdict on those charges.
Slideshow (2 Images)

The trial of Manafort, a veteran Republican operative, is the first stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election. The charges against Manafort largely predate his work on President Donald Trump’s successful campaign.

Prosecutors accused Manafort, 69, of hiding from U.S. tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle and then lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian income dried up and he needed cash.

The verdicts completed a stunning fall for Manafort, a once-powerful political fixer and consultant and well-known figure in Republican politics for decades.

While Trump has sought to play down his connections to him, Manafort worked for five months on Trump’s 2016 campaign during a pivotal period in the presidential race, including three months as chairman.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Nathan Layne in Alexandria, Va.; Writing by Alistair Bell and Warren Strobel; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-21 05:08pm

Another article:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/21/politics ... index.html

Guilty on 8 out of 18 counts. 5 counts of tax fraud, 1 of hiding foreign bank accounts, and 2 of bank fraud.

The jury could not reach a verdict on ten counts, resulting in a mistrial. Which means Manafort's going to prison, but I worry that it will scarcely matter in the larger sense. On the one hand, as the article notes, Manafort was found guilty. On the other hand, the jury could not convict on various charges. Trumpers will play this to the hilt as "proof" that Mueller is incompetent and/or corrupt, even though Manafort has been found guilty on eight counts.

Given the amount of evidence the prosecution provided, and the seeming lack of a substantial defense, I am frankly stunned at this result. I don't know who's to blame- the judge, the prosecution, Mueller, the jury, or a combination of factors- but its certainly deeply concerning, and disappointing. Still, I actually don't think that this is a case of a Trumper getting on the jury (as some of my fellow Leftists will doubtlessly allege)- if that was the case, I would have expected a hung jury on all or nearly all charges.

And any negative political effect may be somewhat offset by Cohen pleading guilty today. :D

Edited for accuracy.
Last edited by The Romulan Republic on 2018-08-21 05:17pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by DaZergRock54444 » 2018-08-21 05:15pm

Except he wasn't cleared on any of the ten charges that did not receive guilty verdicts. Hung jury resulting in a mistrial is not the same as a verdict of Not Guilty. Manafort is thoroughly eligible to be retried on those ten counts, plus whatever counts are waiting for him in the D.C. trial next month.

Either way, eight guilty verdicts seems to strongly imply that this so-called "witch hunt" has officially found a witch.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-21 05:17pm

You are correct, and I realize that I misused the word "cleared". I have corrected my post accordingly.
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Ziggy Stardust » 2018-08-21 07:56pm

So, for the purposes of clarity, it appears that the 8 charges Manafort has been found guilty on were:

5 counts of filing false tax returns (covering the years 2010-2014)
2 counts of bank fraud
1 count of failing to report foreign bank accounts (in 2012)

The 10 charges that resulted in no verdict were:

5 counts of bank fraud conspiracy
3 counts of failing to report foreign bank accounts (in 2011, 2013, and 2014)
2 counts of bank fraud

It's not immediately clear to me what the pattern is (e.g. why there seemed to be sufficient evidence for the 2012 foreign bank account charge but not the 2011 and 2013 ones). It seems he was generally found guilty across the board in terms of the range of different types of charge, but that there were some issues with individual counts. If I had to hazard a guess I would say it would have to be due to some sort of technicalities regarding the evidence presented. Pure speculation until further information is available, though.

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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by Darth Yoshi » 2018-08-22 03:01am

According to a BBC piece, apparently the trial team wasn't up to par with the investigation team.
Virginia-based criminal defence lawyer Greg Hunter told the BBC that when he was present for pre-trial hearings it seemed the prosecution was "poorly prepared and less than candid".

"Their investigative team is really, really good, but they're short a trial lawyer," he says.

"The guys they sent are just not terribly good at presenting a case to a jury."

He added that the Mueller prosecutors sometimes came across as too casual, answering Judge Ellis - who is known for his punctiliousness - with "yup's" and rolling their eyes.

Mr Hunter also noted that the apparent lack of preparation was all the more surprising given that the Department of Justice has brought many prominent cases before Judge Ellis before, including espionage, terrorism, anti-trust, and public corruption.

"They're really sharp lawyers, they've certainly uncovered a lot of facts and done a terrific job with their investigating.

"They were not prepared to try a case in Judge Ellis' courtroom and that's their fault."
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Re: Manafort Heads To Court. First Defendant In Mueller Probe To Face Trial

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-08-22 01:22pm

Hopefully Mueller will remedy that deficit in his team going forward.

Though, I also think that this outcome shows why, however frustrating the length of the investigation may be, it is vital that Mueller be given the time he needs to build his case and not rushed to a conclusion (at least, from the point of view of someone who wants the truth to come out, rather than obstruct justice). This is a very complex case, probably with a lot of very technical evidence that you have to convey to a jury, and even a seemingly-airtight case... isn't. Mueller is one of the most experienced and capable people in the country, probably in the world, to handle a case like this. For all we know, if he were less thorough, less professional, or less experienced, Manafort might have got a hung jury on all counts.
"Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?"

"Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

-Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S Grant, the Battle of Shiloh.


"You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"-Terry Pratchett's DEATH.


I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.


Fuck Civility.

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