The shift in focus toward the former Trump campaign chief’s tax practices on Friday follows a slew of witnesses discussing Manafort’s ostentatious spending habits on clothes, cars, real estate and home decor. Numerous witnesses also testified that Manafort paid them through wire transfers from banks located in Cyprus.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, who is presiding over the case in Alexandria, Va., has voiced concerns throughout the trial that the parade of evidence demonstrating Manafort’s expensive tastes and hefty invoices for personal amenities could unfairly prejudice the jury against him.
“It isn’t a crime to have a lot of money and be profligate in your spending,” Ellis said during prosecutor Uzo Asonye’s opening statement on Tuesday.
Ellis has expressed his impatience with the pace of the court proceedings, at times interrupting prosecutors with calls to hasten their case.
Ellis’ push to move things forward appears to be paying dividends: Prosecutors and Manafort’s lawyers sped through jury selection, opening statements and the first witness — all on the first day of the trial.
Prosecutors said Wednesday they expect to finish their case by next week, which could put them ahead of schedule in a trial that had been expected to last up to three weeks.
While both the Virginia and D.C. cases are based on charges lodged against Manafort by the special counsel, neither is specifically focused on Mueller’s appointed task of investigating potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.