The trial of US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is set to begin with tales of lavish spending, secret companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing to his pocket from offshore bank accounts.
Mr Trump has expressed sympathy for Mr Manafort since the charges were laid, calling him a "nice guy".
At the same time, Mueller's team continues to press the president's legal team for an interview with the commander in chief.
In pretrial arguments, prosecutor Greg Andres told the court the government would only bring up Manafort's campaign work in the context of a witness from a bank who gave him a loan, with the expectation that the banker would win consideration for a post in the Trump administration.
Instead, Judge Ellis directed US marshals to move Manafort to the detention center in Alexandria, near the courthouse.
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Already, Judge T.S. Ellis III has confronted questions about whether prospective jurors can be impartial in the highly charged case.
"Perhaps he believes that he's done nothing wrong, and because he's done nothing wrong, he's unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever - even if it's a lesser crime", said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor.
During his three-week trial, prosecutors plan to lay out Mr Manafort's extensive dealings with the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine's president in 2014. At one point, his defence lawyers sued Mueller and the Justice Department, saying they had overstepped their bounds by bringing a prosecution untethered to the core questions of Mueller's investigation - whether Russian Federation worked with the Trump campaign to tip the election. If he chooses to enter a plea agreement and offers insider information, Mueller might want details about the sit-down, including whether Trump approved it.
His testimony will be significant for "helping to explain how the puzzle pieces all fit together", Little said, particularly as Gates worked so closely with Manafort. The witness was told to say nothing about where the condo is located.
Following this trial, Manafort will face a second trial in Washington in September with more explosive charges, including conspiracy against the United States, failure to register as a foreign agent, money laundering, lying to federal investigators and obstruction of justice.
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Manafort was given the option to consolidate both trials into one.
Now, Paul Manafort is a defendant, and this time his team is made up of lawyers, not political operatives, fighting to keep him out of prison. The defense had anxious voters in Northern Virginia leaned more Democratic than in the western part of the state in 2016, but the Reagan-appointed judge said that was not the standard to assess whether a defendant could receive a fair trial. Federal prosecutors accused him of witness tampering after the witnesses revealed text messages to the FBI.
Over the next three weeks a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, is expected to hear descriptions of his lavish lifestyle and Cypriot shell companies, his ties with Ukrainian oligarchs, and allegedly fraudulent property deals created to deceive the U.S. tax authorities. Cohen will be watching for how the jury perceives the government's case, and how the public responds to the evidence Mueller puts forth.
"If he cooperates with Mueller, a pardon is going to be substantially reduced in likelihood", he said.
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