The trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort inched forward Tuesday as Judge T.S. Ellis broadly laid out the criminal charges against Manafort in front of a few dozen potential jurors.
The pool was convened as part of the process to find suitable jurors for trial. After Ellis' comments, potential jurors left to fill out questionnaires about their affiliations, personal experiences, and ability to serve on a jury for a three-week trial, the first of the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Manafort was in the courtroom Tuesday wearing a suit, unlike Monday, when he donned a green jail jumpsuit. As the potential jurors left the room, Manafort surveyed the pool before looking at his wife in the front row and offering a wink.
Ellis told the potential jurors that their work represented a critical underpinning of the US legal system. He made it clear that if they heard of the case, they must to be able to "put it aside" and judge Manafort solely on the evidence at trial.
"Nothing you do as an American citizen is more important," Ellis said. "Together with voting, it is one of the two cardinal duties of being an American citizen."
Ellis explained the charges to the potential jurors: Signing false tax returns, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts and bank fraud conspiracy. He twice reminded the jurors that these charges are "merely allegations" that need to be proven by the prosecution at trial, and instructed the pool not to talk about the case with anyone.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 criminal charges in federal court in Virginia. If convicted, he could face the rest of his life in prison.
Prosecutors working for Mueller also mentioned that they plan on calling agents from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and the Treasury Department's financial crimes unit as witnesses to testify against Manafort at trial.
Ellis also said that the full list of prosecution witnesses will be released by the end of this week.
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