Paul Manafort has been found guilty on eight out of 18 criminal counts in the tax and bank fraud case against him brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The jury said they were not able to reach a verdict on the remaining 10 counts, and the judge declared those a mistrial — meaning prosecutors will be able to bring them to trial again.
The trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman has been seen a major test for Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The partial conviction still represents a significant victory for Mueller’s prosecutors, Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor, told VICE News.
The jury convicted Manafort on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and a single count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account.
Manafort, 69, had been charged with five counts of filing false tax returns between 2010 and 2014, four counts of failing to report foreign bank accounts, and a combined nine counts of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. If found guilty on all counts, he would have faced a maximum of 305 years in prison.
Trump, not surprisingly, didn’t like the verdict. Upon his arrival in West Virginia for a planned rally, he said he was “very sad” about the conviction and that it “has nothing to do with Russian collusion,” calling it “a disgrace.”
Though the financial charges against Manafort may have had little to do with the election, the verdict still carries major political implications. Before the trial began, the presiding judge, T.S. Ellis, publicly described the legal assault on Manafort as a pressure tactic aimed at convincing him to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators and spill everything he knows about Trump.
Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the decision should lend credence to the Mueller probe, despite Trump repeatedly calling it a “witch hunt.”
“This verdict makes it absolutely clear that the Mueller probe is not a ‘witch hunt’ — it is a serious investigation that is rooting out corruption and Russian influence on our political system at the highest levels,” Warner said in a statement immediately following the jury’s announcement. “Any attempt by the president to pardon Mr. Manafort or interfere with the investigation into his campaign would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress.”
Before the verdict came down, observers had predicted that a guilty verdict would strengthen Mueller’s hand — but that a total wipeout for his team’s first major courtroom effort would be a crippling blow, leaving it vulnerable to the president and his allies who’ve repeatedly called for Mueller to wrap up the investigation quickly.
“In one sense, this trial is separate from the rest of the work that Mueller is doing,” said Jens David Ohlin, Cornell Law vice dean and an expert in international criminal law. “On the other hand, this is the first case that they’ve taken to trial, so they need to establish that their efforts are yielding fruit.”
Manafort had refused to plead guilty and cooperate. But legal experts have told VICE News that even after the verdict, he can still potentially strike a deal with Mueller’s team in exchange for leniency, especially if he does have bombshell insider information about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia in the 2016 election.
So far, however, there are no signs he plans to do that, prompting speculation he may be holding out for a presidential pardon, or that he may have no such information to trade for his freedom.