WASHINGTON - The trial of President Donald Trumpâ€™s onetime campaign chairman will open this week with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultantâ€™s pocket.
Whatâ€™s likely to be missing: answers about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, or really any mention of Russia at all.
Paul Manafortâ€™s financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Muellerâ€™s investigation, will center on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the presidentâ€™s campaign.
But the broader implications are unmistakable.
The trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday with jury selection in Alexandria, Virginia, will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence Muellerâ€™s team has spent the year accumulating.
It will feature testimony about the business dealings and foreign ties of a defendant Trump entrusted to run his campaign during a critical stretch in 2016, including during the Republican convention.
And it will unfold at a delicate time for the president as Muellerâ€™s team presses for an interview and as Trump escalates his attacks on an investigation he calls a â€świtch hunt.â€ť
Adding to the intrigue is the expected spectacle of Manafortâ€™s deputy, Rick Gates, testifying against him after cutting a plea deal with prosecutors, and the speculation that Manafort, who faces charges in two different courts and decades in prison if convicted, may be holding out for a pardon from Trump.
Manafort was indicted along with Gates in Muellerâ€™s wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of cooperating with the government.
The remaining 31 individuals charged have either reached plea agreements, including ex-White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged.