The trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was abruptly put on hold on Friday morning, inspiring much tongue-wagging and speculation about the increasingly likely possibility that the cornered operative strikes a deal with federal prosecutors and turns his back on his former boss.
Manafort is accused of orchestrating a “global conspiracy” to launder and evade taxes on the millions of dollars he received doing shady lobbying work for former Ukranian puppet leader, Viktor Yanukovych. He faces 305 years in prison for 18 financial crime charges.
Judge T.S. Ellis III has been pushing for the trial to proceed as quickly as possible — until today, when he delayed the start of witness testimony until the afternoon to hold two successive bench conferences with the attorneys of both sides and then vanished into the jury room for 45 minutes before calling an early lunch.
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The uncharacteristic delay has many wondering if a plea deal is in the works, reports the Hill, though there is no other evidence to indicate that this is true. Manafort’s lawyer has already stated that he will not accept any plea deal, but that might change as it becomes painfully obvious that Manafort is extremely guilty.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Manafort’s former aide Rick Gates admitted to committing a laundry list of crimes with Manafort “including bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, lying to federal authorities, lying in a court deposition and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr. Manafort’s accounts by falsely claiming expense.”
The delay means witness testimony is almost certainly to continue into next week. The future for Manafort and the Trump-Russia investigation is still very murky, but all signs are pointing to some very bad news for the President and his cronies.