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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Judge agrees to delay Paul Manafort trial until next week

Longtime Republican operative and businessman appeared in court for the hearing in a green prison jumpsuit

Charges against Paul Manafort, predate the five months he worked on the Trump team in 2016, some as campaign chairman. Reuters
Charges against Paul Manafort, predate the five months he worked on the Trump team in 2016, some as campaign chairman. Reuters

A US judge on Monday delayed the criminal trial of Paul Manafort, US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, until next week and made public the identity of five witnesses granted immunity to testify.

US district judge TS Ellis also said the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller must provide a list of about 30 witnesses to Mr Manafort's lawyers, who had sought a delay in his trial on Wednesday for bank and tax-fraud charges.

Mr Manafort, a long-time Republican operative and businessman, appeared in court in a green prison jumpsuit. He has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

It will be the first trial to originate in the Mueller's investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

Judge Ellis said the trial delay until July 31 would give Mr Manafort’s attorneys more time to review material recently submitted by prosecutors, but he warned it would not be a lengthy process.

“I’m not going to allow this trial to drag on,” Mr Ellis said, adding he would not let it turn into political theater. “I’m not in the theatre business.”

According to court filings unsealed by Mr Ellis on Monday, Mr Mueller had requested immunity for Dennis Raico, Cindy Laporta, Conor O’Brien, Donna Duggan and James Brennan. They are all financial professionals who may have gained some knowledge of Mr Manafort’s business dealings.

Prosecutors said on Monday the only references to Mr Manafort’s role in the campaign during the trial would involve a banker who agreed to lend him money in exchange for a role in Mr Trump’s campaign.

The banker was not named. In court on Monday, Mr Ellis asked prosecutors if the banker who lent Mr Manafort money in exchange for a campaign role knew the documents to support the loan were inaccurate. “He did,” prosecutor Greg Andres replied.

The Manafort charges largely predate the five months he worked on the Trump team in 2016, some of them as campaign chairman.

None of the charges relate to possible coordination with Russian officials by members of the Trump campaign, which is part of Mr Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the election. Mr Andres said on Monday the topic of alleged collusion would not be discussed in the trial.

The Kremlin denies election interference and Mr Trump denies collusion.