Alexandria, Virginia, Jul 23 (EFE).- A US federal judge on Monday granted immunity to five potential witnesses in exchange for their testimony against Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, who is on trial for bank and tax fraud in Virginia.
Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III announced his ruling during a hearing in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Ellis said he will have the identities of the witnesses made public after last week prosecutors working under Special Counsel Robert Mueller asked for so-called “use immunity” for them, thus preventing any testimony they give at Manafort’s trial from being used against them in future criminal prosecutions.
However, the judge’s granting of use immunity to the five does not preclude them from being charged on the basis of other evidence.
Mueller and his team of prosecutors are investigating the alleged links between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign.
Ellis on Monday asked for prosecutors to provide to Manafort’s defense team a list of the names of the 30 individuals who will testify at trial, among whom – in all probability – is Rick Gates, who for years was Manafort’s right-hand man but who pleaded guilty to charges filed in keeping with the Russia probe.
Manafort was hired by Trump’s campaign team in March 2016 and in June took over the reins of the campaign, although he was fired that August when it was revealed that he was being investigated in Ukraine for receiving payments from a pro-Russian party.
According to Mueller, the now-69-year-old Manafort worked from 2006-2017 for foreign governments, including the pro-Russian administration of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (who governed that country from 2010-2014 before fleeing to Moscow) and other Russian oligarchs, whom he advised on how to improve their images in Washington although he violated US law by never informing US authorities that he was working as a foreign agent.
For his advisory activities, Manafort allegedly received $75 million, of which $30 million was laundered to hide its illicit origin by opening bank accounts in foreign countries.
Manafort’s trial is the result of Mueller’s Russia probe but is not related to his activities as head of Trump’s campaign.
Manafort is facing two trials – one in Washington and another in Virginia, the latter of which is slated to commence in two days, although his defense team has asked for a delay in its start, a request on which the judge is expected to rule in the very near future.