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Jury in ex-Trump aide Manafort's trial adjourns for day without a verdict

Jury in ex-Trump aide Manafort's trial adjourns for day without a verdict
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By Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) – The jury in the bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort ended its third day of deliberations on Monday without reaching a verdict.

The judge said the jury would reconvene on Tuesday morning.

The case is the first to go to trial stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, although the charges largely predate Manafort’s five months working on Donald Trump’s successful campaign.

Manafort faces five counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of failing to disclose offshore bank accounts, and nine counts of bank fraud. If convicted on all the charges, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

A conviction would undermine efforts by Trump and some Republican lawmakers to paint Mueller’s Russia inquiry as a political witch hunt, while an acquittal would be a setback for the special counsel.

In a break with convention, Trump weighed in on the trial on Friday, calling the case against Manafort at the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, “very sad” and lauding his former associate as a “very good person.”

On Monday, Trump accused Mueller’s team of “enjoying ruining people’s lives” and trying to influence the elections in November when Republicans will try to hold on to control of Congress.

“Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s tweet was in reference to a New York Times report that White House Counsel Don McGahn had cooperated extensively with Mueller.

Before dismissing them on Friday, Judge T.S. Ellis reminded the jurors, who are not sequestered, to refrain from discussing the case or investigating it on their own during the weekend.

Some legal experts expressed concern, however, that jurors might still see Trump’s comments – inadvertently or otherwise.

    Another headline from Friday that could grab the attention of jurors concerned Ellis’ disclosure that he had received threats related to the trial and was being protected by U.S. marshals. The jury was not present when he made those remarks.

    “In a high profile case, the general assumption is that some outside information may accidentally reach a jury, despite jurors’ best efforts to avoid relevant news,” said jury consultant Roy Futterman.

    “Given the judge’s statement, the jurors may reasonably assume that they may be at some risk, which may change the tenor of their deliberations, perhaps raising tensions or speeding things up.”

On Thursday, the jury asked for a definition of “reasonable doubt” and clarification on the law governing the reporting of foreign bank accounts, but it did not ask any similar questions on Friday or Monday.

    Shanlon Wu, who represented Manafort’s former protege Rick Gates before he pleaded guilty in February and cooperated with the prosecution, said the lack of questions might bode better for the prosecution than the defence.

He said it suggested “they were working hard and working well together, and there was no dissension.”

“I think that’s a good sign for the prosecution,” Wu said.

    Still, he said he saw a chance of acquittals on the four counts of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, citing the jury’s technical question on Thursday about the ownership and control threshold requirements for such disclosures.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in Alexandria, Va.; Writing by Alistair Bell and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)

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