After four days of deliberation, the jury found Manafort guilty of eight counts of financial crime. No date has been set for his sentencing.
Manafort is the first official to be brought down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 201 US presidential election.
Prosecutors had shown that Manafort hid millions of dollars in offshore accounts to avoid detection from the Internal Revenue Service and lied to banks to procure loans of US$20 million.
Ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort guilty of tax fraud charges, jury fails to reach verdict on 10 other counts https://t.co/MGE9MXVJHP
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) August 21, 2018
He was found guilty of two charges of bank fraud, one charge of failing to disclose a foreign bank account and five charges of tax fraud. The judge in the case declared a mistrial on 10 other counts after the jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Counts of bank fraud carry a prison term of up to 30 years.
Trump has been vigorously defending his former Campaign Director and has repeatedly described the charges against him as a “witch hunt”.
On 3 June he tweeted that “Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time…but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!”
….Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2018
Trump on the Manafort verdict: “very sad”
In a statement, Mark Warner, a Democratic Senator Virginia, said: “This verdict makes it absolutely clear that the Mueller probe is not a ‘witch hunt’ — it is a serious investigation that is rooting out corruption and Russian influence on our political system at the highest levels.
“The President’s campaign manager was just convicted of serious federal crimes by a jury of his peers, despite the President’s continued attempts to undermine the investigation which has brought Mr. Manafort to justice.
Any attempt by the President to pardon Mr. Manafort or interfere in the investigation into his campaign would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress.”
Meanwhile, President Trump said Manafort being found guilty was “very sad” and had “nothing to do” with Russian collusion.
“We continue the witch hunt,” he said. “Paul Manafort is a good man. It doesn’t involve me, but it’s a very sad thing.”
On 1 August, Trump had asked on Twitter whether Manafort was being treated worse than infamous gangster Al Capone.
Within just minutes of each other, a federal jury found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on 8 counts and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 counts.
Manafort news: https://t.co/TKm03x2e55
Cohen news: https://t.co/E4YesSmWQc
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 21, 2018
During the trial, prosecutors focused on Manafort’s personal finances, including the eight-figure sum he made advising a pro-Russian political party in Russia. His attorneys had attempted to paint Rick Gates, a former Campaign Advisor, as the mastermind of the fraud. Gates had previously entered a guilty plea and flipped as the prosecuition’s key witness.
Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing said: “Mr. Manafort is disappointed at not getting acquittals all the way through or a complete hung jury on all counts. However, he would like to thank Judge Ellis for granting him a fair trial.”
Downing did not immediately commit to his client appealing the decision. “He is evaluating all his options at this point,” Downing said.
Prosecutors have until 29 August to decide whether to retry Manafort on the charges where the jury could not reach a decision.
Manafort will also face trial on other charges brought by Mueller’s team, including obstruction of justice, conspiracy to launder money and failure to register as a foreign agent. That trial is scheduled to start in September.
In other bad legal news for Donald Trump, his former lawyer Michael Cohen entered a guilty plea for violating federal campaign finance law and other charges.