The trial of Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump's successful 2016 run for the White House, begins on Tuesday and prosecutors have coached witnesses to focus on the crimes Manafort is charged with and not his relationship with Trump, ABC is reporting.
According to the report, special counsel Robert Mueller's case is focused solely on accusations that Manafort committed financial crimes, ranging from tax evasion to bank fraud, that have no direct ties to his campaign work.
The report goes on to note that prosecutors have asked witnesses to avoid mentioning Trump during their testimony to avoid prejudicing jurors; a decision that was met with approval by United States District Judge T.S. Ellis III.
"The defense doesn’t want to be prejudiced by association with Trump," explained defense attorney Solomon L. Wisenberg, who is not associated with the case. "With a northern Virginia jury, they know they may not be kindly disposed to the president."
Defense attorney Shanlon Wu, who is also not participating in the case, seconded the legal strategy, saying it would lessen the chance of a mistrial should Manafort's attorneys want to contest guilty verdicts over accusations jurors let their distaste for Trump influence their decisions.
"Mueller’s team is trying to keep it pristine with the judge. They are more worried about protecting the trial from having a mistrial or having it overturned on appeal than provoking a hold-out person over Trump," Wu explained.
According to prosecutor Greg Andres, "We don’t intend to mention alleged collusion with the Russians," adding "a very small portion of the trial" will mention collusion -- but only in connection to the government’s claim that Manafort traded on his relationship to Trump to obtain foreign bank loans.