Former Trump campaign chairman Manafort found guilty on eight of 18 charges

By Karen Freifeld, Nathan Layne and Ginger Gibson ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) - Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on Tuesday of eight counts of financial wrongdoing, giving Special Counsel Robert Mueller a victory in the first trial arising from his investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election. After almost four days of deliberations, a 12-member jury found Manafort guilty on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. The jury in U.S. federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, said it could not reach a verdict on 10 of the 18 counts with which Manafort was charged. Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those counts. While the charges against Manafort mostly predate his work on President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, legal analysts said the verdict was largely a victory for Mueller. Trump has repeatedly denounced the special counsel's investigation. Trump, arriving in West Virginia for a rally on Tuesday night, tried to distance himself from Manafort's conviction, saying it did not involve him. "Paul Manafort is a good man. ... It doesn't involve me, but I still feel - you know, it's a very sad thing that happened," Trump said. "This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. This started as Russian collusion; this has absolutely nothing to do - this is a witch hunt and it's a disgrace." Manafort's conviction on the eight counts came in the same hour that Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty in New York to campaign finance violations and other charges. Manafort stood quietly while the verdict was being read by the clerk. It represented a stunning fall for Manafort, a well-known figure in Republican politics for decades. Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, told reporters afterward that his client was disappointed in the verdict and was evaluating his options. Mueller's office declined comment on the verdict. Prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding from U.S. tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine to fund an opulent lifestyle and then lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian income dried up and he needed cash. The two bank fraud charges on which he was convicted each carry a potential prison term of up to 30 years. But several sentencing experts predicted Manafort, 69, would receive a prison term of about 10 years. 'IMPORTANT TO LET PROCESS CONTINUE' Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the Manafort verdict refuted Trump’s repeated charge that the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt. He warned that any attempt by Trump to use his presidential powers to pardon Manafort or interfere in Mueller’s probe "would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress." Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement that the Manafort and Cohen cases showed the "American legal system is working its will." He added that "there have yet to be any charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign in the 2016 election." Graham issued what appeared to be a caution to Trump against meddling in Mueller's investigation, saying: "It’s important to let this process continue without interference." Moscow has denied interfering in the 2016 election and Trump has said there was no collusion. David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami, said the guilty verdict on eight of 18 counts was "a significant victory" for Mueller. "The mistrial on the remaining 10 counts is a shallow victory for the defense," said Weinstein, now a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson. Ellis gave the prosecution until Aug. 29 to decide whether to retry Manafort on the charges on which the jury deadlocked. As a result, the judge did not set a sentencing date for the other charges. Manafort now faces a second trial on Sept. 17 in Washington in which he is charged with money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist in the United States for his work for pro-Kremlin politicians in Ukraine, and obstruction of justice. The second trial promises to delve deeper into Manafort’s Russian connections, including his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukranian-Russian political consultant who was indicted along with Manafort and who Mueller says has ties to Russian intelligence. (Reporting by Karen Freifeld, Nathan Layne and Ginger Gibson in Alexandria, Va.; Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder and Katanga Johnson in Alexandria and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Writing by Warren Strobel and Alistair Bell; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)