Manafort Has Just Four Months Before He Goes on Trial

(Bloomberg) -- Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, will go on trial in four months on tax and bank fraud charges.

A Virginia federal judge scheduled Manafort’s trial for July 10, although it’s possible the date could be delayed. The schedule intensifies the pressure on him to consider whether to plead guilty and cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort, who isn’t accused of crimes related to Russia, could provide prosecutors with an inside account of the Trump campaign in mid-2016.

Manafort’s trial will be the first in Mueller’s sweeping investigation, which has led to charges against 19 people. Manafort’s former right-hand man, Rick Gates, has pleaded guilty, is cooperating with the government and may testify for the prosecution.

The case is one of two against him. In Washington, he faces conspiracy and money laundering charges. Manafort, who is free on bail but subject to home confinement, has denied wrongdoing in both cases. The Washington case is set for a Sept. 17 trial.

Gates Guilty Plea Strengthens U.S. Hand Against Manafort

Manafort and Gates worked for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former Ukrainian president who was attempting to burnish his image in the U.S. and Europe. Prosecutors say Manafort conspired to launder millions of dollars he earned from his lobbying work, failed to register in the U.S. as a lobbyist, and didn’t pay taxes on overseas income. The cases were brought in separate courts because Manafort wouldn’t consent to having the tax charges filed in Washington.

Thursday’s court hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, was punctuated with moments of humor. When prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said the case wasn’t complicated, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis said, "You’re wrong. It is. C’mon.”

Virginia’s Eastern District federal courts are known for their expedited handling of cases, a phenomenon known as "the rocket docket." In court, prosecutors suggested a May trial and Ellis proposed June. Downing objected, citing the complexity of the case, and asked for November.

If convicted, Manafort, 68, could face more than 10 years behind bars in the Virginia case and almost 20 years in the Washington case, prosecutors said.

The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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