President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes, a major victory for special counsel Robert Mueller.
Manafort was charged in Virginia with 18 counts in total, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on 10 of the counts. US District Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on those charges.
He hasn’t been sentenced yet, but legal experts speculated that Manafort could spend years in prison.
“It doesn’t involve me, but it’s a very sad thing that happened,” he said. “This has nothing to with Russian collusion.”
Trump added: “This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. This started as Russian collusion. This has absolutely nothing to do — this is a witch hunt.”
The president did not immediately comment on Michael Cohen, his longtime personal attorney who signed on to a plea deal within minutes of the Manafort verdict Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier Tuesday, the jury sent a note to Ellis asking him what would happen “if we cannot come to a consensus on a single count.” They asked how they should fill in the verdict form in that case, and “what does that mean for the final verdict.”
Ellis said he would give the jury directions on continuing their deliberations to see whether they could reach a unanimous conclusion, but said he would not issue a new verdict form.
Manafort’s lawyer suggested earlier in the day that jurors should be given a third option on the form — specifically, a “hung jury” option for each count, which has never been done before.
Charges against Manafort
Prosecutors said Manafort collected $65 million in foreign bank accounts from 2010 to 2014 and spent more than $15 million on luxury purchases in the same period, including high-end clothing, real estate, landscaping and other big-ticket items.
They also alleged that Manafort lied to banks in order to take out more than $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian political work dried up in 2015, and they accused him of hiding the foreign bank accounts from federal authorities. Manafort received loans from the Federal Savings Bank after one of its executives sought a position in the Trump campaign and administration, according to prosecutors.
“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied to get more money when he didn’t,” prosecutor Greg Andres told jurors during closing arguments. “This is a case about lies.”
Manafort, 69, has been in jail since June after his bail was revoked following new charges of witness tampering against him.
He still faces a second set of criminal charges in a Washington, DC, federal court, of failure to register his foreign lobbying and of money laundering conspiracy related to the same Ukrainian political work that was central to the Virginia case.