WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday submitted a list of 35 potential witnesses for the trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort due to begin next week in Virginia, including bankers and accountants likely to testify regarding charges of bank and tax fraud.
The list, disclosed in a court filing, included Manafort’s longtime business associate Richard Gates, who was indicted in October at the same time as Manafort, pleaded guilty in February and has been cooperating in Mueller’s probe.
Also on the list was Tad Devine, a consultant who worked with Manafort in Ukraine and served as chief strategist for 2016 Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders. Devine’s firm said in a statement he was serving as a fact witness and had been assured he did not have legal exposure.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts. The charges largely pre-date the five months when Manafort worked on Trump’s campaign in 2016.
A large number of the witnesses are executives at banks that lent Manafort money, the accounting firm that did his taxes and others involved in financial dealings who could be asked to corroborate documentary evidence showing the alleged bank and tax fraud at the heart of the case.
“The case will be proven by paper and those people who have a transactional relationship to the paper,” said Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor. “All those people to say essentially that Manafort knew what he was doing.”
The trial had been scheduled to start this past Wednesday in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, but U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III delayed it until next Tuesday and directed Mueller to provide a witness list to Manafort’s lawyers.
The list also included people at businesses where Manafort spent money such as the director of ticket operations at the New York Yankees baseball team, the head of a landscaping firm and an executive at a Mercedes-Benz dealership.
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defence lawyer, said prosecutors likely want to show Manafort’s “luxurious lifestyle,” with the aim of making him less likeable to jurors.
Five of the witnesses, all financial professionals, were identified previously when they were granted immunity to testify.
None of the charges relate to possible coordination with Russian officials by Trump’s campaign, an important element of Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s interference in the election. Russia denies election interference. Trump denies collusion.
Manafort faces a second criminal trial in Washington in September on related charges, including witness tampering, in connection with lobbying work he performed for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government.
Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Nathan Layne in New York; Editing by Will Dunham
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