The conventional wisdom promulgated on cable news shows is that the Manafort trial, now underway in northern Virginia, is a "documents case" concerning financial crimes the defendant committed, if he committed them, before ever working on the Trump campaign. Since the evidence will consist of, for example, columns of numbers and items that should have been checked on tax returns, but weren't, and especially since none of this relates directly to Trump, we are in for a real snooze fest. And we should believe it inasmuch as, coming from cable news guests, this amounts to a statement against interest, which has high probative value.
But I wonder. The "financial" crimes Manafort is charged with are not really of the same type. At first, he seems to have had almost unlimited income, and the object was not to pay tax on it. Thus all the shell companies and wire transfers from offshore accounts. Then, later, in the time immediately preceding his hook-up with the Trump campaign, he suddenly had an opposite problem: no access to cash, which caused him to make out false loan applications, including, on one occasion, enlisting the lies of a relative to help him persuade a bank to give him money. It's widely believed that his financial downfall is connected to the political downfall of his client, Viktor Yanukovych, who lost the presidency of the Ukraine in 2014. At the time Manafort was scrambling, and lying, in order to get funds, he was also making overtures to the Trump campaign, offering to render his services for free. His offer was accepted and he took over the management of Trump's campaign.
Did Manafort regard his unpaid job as a solution to his cash flow problems? If so, why? It seems reasonable to surmise that Team Mueller has investigated these questions and has by now a pretty good idea how they should be answered. Adam Davidson adds details and texture, here.