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Lawyers begin closing arguments in explosive trial of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort

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Lawyers will begin closing arguments Wednesday in the explosive trial of former Donald Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, after which the veteran political operative’s fate will rest with the jury.

After hearing some 20 witnesses for prosecutors describe how Manafort allegedly evaded taxes on millions of dollars and repeatedly lied to banks as he borrowed millions more, a jury of 12 could begin deliberating on the case as early as late Wednesday.

Lawyers for Manafort, 69, who faces 18 counts related to tax and bank fraud, had tried to get federal Judge T.S. Ellis to throw out some or all of the charges against him, but Ellis rejected the motion.

In a two-week trial that highlighted Manafort’s lavish spending on clothing, including $15,000 for an ostrich-skin bomber jacket and landscaping one of his homes with a flower bed shaped like the letter “M,” the jury heard from a former partner and a former accountant on how the longtime political consultant doctored his accounts and laundered tens of millions of dollars through offshore banks.

Defense attorneys rested their case without calling witnesses on Manafort’s behalf.

“The reason Mr Manafort put on no witnesses in his defense is that his lawyers and he believed that they created doubt through their examination of the government’s witnesses,” said Jacob S. Frenkel, a former US federal prosecutor and partner at Dickinson Wright law firm.

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“The challenge for the government is to present the case to the jury as a very simple case. That is Mr Manafort had an obligation to pay taxes, complete his tax returns correctly and be truthful in borrowing from banks.

“If the government can keep it simple, then the case for the jury may be compelling,” Frenkel said.

It is the first case to be tried that is tied to the sprawling investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which is focused on possible illegal collusion between President Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia.

Trump has denounced the probe as a politically motivated “witch hunt” and denied there was any collusion with Moscow to defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

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While several others charged in the investigation, including former Manafort aide Richard Gates, have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the Mueller probe, Manafort has maintained his innocence.

Yet Trump and the 2016 election campaign were barely mentioned during the trial.

The charges against Manafort relate mostly to his handling of money he earned working for Russian-favored politicians in Ukraine from 2005 to 2014, including helping tycoon Viktor Yanukovych become president in 2010.

Besides the trial underway in the US district court in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort faces multiple charges of conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice filed separately by Mueller’s team in a court in Washington.

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Trump spends ABC interview trying to discredit Robert Mueller as ‘conflicted’

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President Donald Trump spent most of his interview with George Stephanopoulos blasting Special Counsel Robert Mueller, while he incorrectly quoted the report he published.

"I don't care what he says. It doesn't matter," Trump said when Stephanopoulos cited the Mueller report. "He wanted to show everyone what a good counsel he was. Now, he may have gotten confused said with that fact that I've always said, 'Robert Mueller was conflicted. He had numerous conflicts. One of them was the fact that he applied for to job to be the FBI director -- the head of the FBI. And, by the way --"

Stephanopoulos stepped in to say that former top aide Steve Bannon said that it never happened.

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Donald Trump: ‘My life has always been a fight’

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The full interview with President Donald Trump finally aired on ABC Sunday, revealing the shocking way that he views his life.

Trump lamented that he's had such a hard life, as the son of multi-millionaires who paid to get him out of trouble multiple times.

"You're a fighter. You, you, it feels like you're in a constant kind of churn--" host George Stephanopoulos began.

"Yeah, uh, my life has always been a fight," Trump said. "And I enjoy that I guess, I don't know if I enjoy it or not, I guess -- sometimes I have false fights like the Russian witch hunt. That's a false fight. That's a made-up, uh, hoax. And I had to fight that."

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The right-wing scored more in years of Trump than eight years of George W. Bush: report

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President George W. Bush oversaw eight years that restricted rights, banned LGBTQ equality, appointed anti-choice judges and so much more. But under Donald Trump's presidency, social conservatives have managed to roll back any progress made by President Barack Obama's leadership.

A new Axios report listed out any anti-LGBTQ, anti-women and anti-poor policies.

“He campaigned saying that he would be a good friend to LGBT people,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, told VOX. "Actions speak far louder than words. And what he's done has been a wreck."

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