President Donald Trump followed the opening day of the trial of his former campaign chief Paul Manafort closely, officials told CNN on Tuesday.
Two officials said the White House had one strategy above all at the outset of Manafort’s trial: Distance Trump from his former campaign chairman and downplay the legal proceedings underway in Alexandria, Virginia.
But that strategy was at odds with what was happening behind the scenes, the officials said. According to them, Trump’s legal team gave updates on what happened during the first day of courtroom action on Tuesday, the President was watching TV coverage as he flew to Florida for a rally and he made known he wants frequent trial updates as the court proceedings move along.
Tuesday marked the beginning of Manafort’s trial in Virginia on financial crimes charges, a major moment in the special counsel investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
In an opening statement, prosecutor Uzo Asonye accused the former Trump ally of lying.
“All of these charges boil down to one simple issue: that Paul Manafort lied,” Asonye said. “Manafort placed himself and his money over the law.”
Manafort’s defense team, meanwhile, pointed blame at his longtime deputy Rick Gates, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to investigators after being charged alongside Manafort.
Manafort is also due to face other charges in a separate trial in Washington.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Jeremy Herb and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.