Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Rick Gates, 23 Emails and a Turning Point in the Manafort Trial

Thomas Zehnle second from right attorney for Paul Manafort walks with other members of the defense team to Alexandria Federal Courthouse in Alexandria Va. Monday Aug. 6 2018. Manafort President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman is on Rick Gates Set to Testify Against Ex-Boss Paul Manafort
Andrew Cummings | 07 August, 2018, 04:56

Speaking at Manafort's trial late that afternoon, Gates bluntly answered the prosecutor's questions.

Rick Gates, the key prosecution witness in the tax and fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, testified Monday he had committed crimes alongside and at the direction of his former partner - and had also stolen from Manafort himself.

Gates is expected to be the government's star witness in its case against Manafort.

Gates testified that Manafort directed him to report overseas income as loans in order to lower taxable income - an allegation prosecutors have been eliciting testimony about from witnesses since last week.

In questioning Ms Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked the accountant about a $10 million loan purportedly received by Mr Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006.

Jurors will hear again Monday from Cynthia Laporta, an accountant who testified August 3 about going along with phony, backdated documents meant to help lower Manafort's tax bills and secure real-estate loans even as his personal debt rose.

Aside from admitting to the false expense reports, Gates said he also created a fake letter to an investment company for a different colleague, Steve Brown. In that time, we're also likely to see several emails and other documents with Gates' and Manafort's names on them as evidence.

"I was the one who helped organize the paperwork and initiate the wire transfers", Gates said, describing Manafort's use of unregistered Cypriot bank accounts to collect political consulting payments from Ukrainian oligarchs.

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Rick Gates has been regarded as a crucial witness for the government ever since he pleaded guilty this year to two felony charges and agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign. He has played those roles throughout the trial, repeatedly scolding prosecutors to rein in their depictions of Manafort's lavish lifestyle and demanding that they "move it along".

Prosecutors said last week that they meant to call him to the stand before resting their case this week. The White House says Mr. Trump feels his former campaign chair is being treated unfairly.

In court today, prosecutors walked Gates through his plea agreement and the charges he had faced before he pleaded guilty and began cooperating with the government.

But Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Manafort.

Manafort's defense has sought to blame Gates for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort. The effect of the loan was to reduce Manafort's income by that amount and reduce his taxes, she said. During that process, Gates admitted to two felony charges, but his testimony would be the first time he details those crimes face-to-face with Manafort, his former boss and mentor. He said on Monday that, "at Mr. Manafort's request", he lied to Manafort's accountants about Manafort's control over certain foreign accounts. Gates agreed to flip on his former boss in exchange for leniency.

It's important to note that some of the alleged bank fraud did occur while Manafort was running the Trump campaign.

The trial is set to resume Monday afternoon in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

The criminal case has nothing to do with either man's work for the Trump campaign and there's been no discussion during the trial about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Federation - the central question Mueller's team has tried to answer.

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