Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort appeared in Alexandria, Virginia federal court on Thursday and entered a plea of not guilty to an 18-count indictment as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
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Thursday marked Manafort’s first appearance in the Virginia federal court – where the special counsel’s team filed his 18-count indictment last month on charges of money laundering and tax evasion among others.
Late last month, Manafort pleaded not guilty to a five-count revised indictment filed by the special counsel team in Washington D.C. federal court. The judge in that case set Manafort’s trial to begin on Sept. 17.
Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to a dramatically-reduced set of charges in federal court late last month in exchange for his cooperation with Mueller’s probe. As part of Gates’ plea deal, he now faces just two felony counts provided he cooperates fully with special counsel investigators.
During his arraignment last month, Judge Amy Berman Jackson cautioned that there could be “overlap” in both cases against Manafort as they head to trial.
“It seems like the government is setting itself up” for “duplicative motions” and a “risk of inconsistent rulings and motions,” Jackson said.
Special Counsel prosecutor Greg Andres said the government had anticipated that, but he noted that it was the defense that opted for the separate venue in Virginia.
“I think the burden will fall heaviest on the defense,” Jackson warned.
In the Washington D.C. trial, the government said it anticipates using a written questionnaire to select a jury, and the judge cautioned that the document should contain no more than 50 “short” questions.
“Less is even better,” Judge Jackson said with a smile after Manafort’s arraignment.