Ex-Trump top aide Manafort pleads not guilty, faces September 17 trial

Paul Manafort leaves Federal District Court in Washington Monday Oct. 30 2017. Manafort President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman and Manafort's business associate Rick Gates have pleaded not guilty to felony charges of conspiracy

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Wednesday set a trial date of September 17 for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on charges from special counsel Robert Mueller, multiple media outlets reported.

The political impact is hard to predict, but it could aid Democrats eager to keep the focus on what US intelligence officials have warned will be a renewed Russian effort to meddle in the USA campaign this fall.

US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson set Manafort's trial to start September 17 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Gates and Manafort are accused of preparing false tax returns, Bank fraud, conspiracy to commit Bank fraud, money laundering, disclosure of income from foreign sources, the conspiracy against the interests of the U.S. and the misrepresentation of the American authorities.

That plea was not associated with the superseding charges filed by Mueller last week but was instead related to charges filed against Manafort and Gates in October, for which he still faces 71 months in prison.

He is the only American charged in the sprawling Russian Federation investigation who has pleaded not guilty and thus will stand trial. Gates changed his plea last week and agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation. His associate Rick Gates pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy February 23.

On Monday, federal prosecutors moved to dismiss almost two dozen other charges that Gates faced in Virginia.

Manafort is facing two separate indictments - one filed in the federal court in Washington, D.C., and a second in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Manafort and Gates were indicted in October, and both pleaded not guilty at the time.

Andres said the special counsel's office understood, but stressed that Manafort chose not to waive his right to have the charges brought in Virginia.

In the statement last week, Manafort said: "I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence". His lawyer says that he intends to file a motion asking Judge Jackson to clarify her order on public statements. So ruled the district court in Washington. His arraignment in that court is scheduled for Friday afternoon, and there is no trial date yet in that case.

Jackson said the two cases have some overlap, and could create complications for scheduling and potentially conflicting rulings on what evidence can be used during the trial. She said she thought that was "appropriate", but said it should be 50 questions or fewer.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is running the Russian Federation probe, is dialing up the legal pressure on Manafort, who has not opted to cooperate with investigators. But last week he said he has no plans to cut a deal of his own with Mueller.

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