Robert S. Mueller III, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, is sworn in before testifying before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg News)

Mueller Names 35 Potential Witnesses for Manafort Trial

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller named 35 potential witnesses who may be called to testify in the tax- and bank-fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, including his onetime right-hand man Rick Gates.

The list, filed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, hints at how the first trial stemming from Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling may unfold. The jury is likely to hear about home loans, fine cars -- even Major League Baseball tickets. The three-week trial is scheduled to start on July 31.

Gates, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller, is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness. He will guide jurors through bank records and other financial documents as prosecutors try to prove that Manafort earned millions of dollars as a political consultant in Ukraine, failed to disclose his income and offshore accounts to U.S. tax authorities and lied to lenders in borrowing $20 million.

But Mueller’s team will have to avoid overwhelming jurors with witnesses, said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

“The witness list is too large, even for a very complex trial like this one,” Mariotti said. “There’s always a tendency for prosecutors to put on more evidence than is necessary because their burden of proof is so high.”

The list includes Tad Devine, the 63-year-old political consultant who ran Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. The jurors may hear about Manafort renting out one of his condos, with Airbnb Inc.’s director of customer experience Darin Evenson listed as a potential witness. Wayne Holland, a real estate agent connected with the sale of property in Arlington to Andrea Manafort in 2012, may testify.

Also on the list are: Democratic media consultant Daniel Rabin; Alex Trusko, the former Manafort assistant who opened his boss’s storage locker for the FBI; Irfan Kirimca, director of ticket operations for the New York Yankees; Peggy Miceli, of Citizens Financial Group Inc., which has been identified as Lender B in the indictment; and Daniel Opsut, the controller for Mercedes-Benz of Alexandria, which sold a Mercedes Benz SL 550 to Manafort’s wife, Kathleen, in 2012.

Prosecutors aren’t certain to call all 35 witnesses. They may wait to see how the trial proceeds and how jurors respond before deciding who to put on the witness stand.

“Maybe they would only call 17 or 18 witnesses,” Mariotti said. “That would be more reasonable.”

Earlier this week, Ellis granted immunity to five potential witnesses, including accountants and bankers, so they could testify without legal risk. The group includes people from Kositzka, Wicks and Company, an accounting firm used by Manafort. Others who’ve been granted immunity appear to have worked for the Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, which provided him with millions of dollars in mortgage loans.

The five people granted immunity were James Brennan, Dennis Raico, Cindy Laporta, Donna Duggan and Conor O’Brien. They’re all potential witnesses.

Laporta works for the accounting firm of Kositzka, Wicks and Company in Virginia, and O’Brien was previously employed there. Two other names on the list match those who have worked at the Federal Savings Bank.

The bank’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Calk, was part of the Trump campaign’s economic advisory panel. House Democrats have asked whether the loans were part of a quid pro quo in which Calk was promised a high-ranking job in the Trump administration. Calk isn’t listed as a witness.

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

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