Star witness Rick Gates to testify for third day in Manafort trial

Getty Images  TPM Illustration

Getty Images TPM Illustration

Defence attorneys for Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort, on trial for tax and bank fraud, attacked the credibility of the key prosecution witness as he wrapped up three days of gruelling testimony on Wednesday (Aug 8).

According to Gates, Manafort, who had by then left the campaign, asked Gates in various ways to use his position on Trump's team to do favors for Stephen Calk, a banker who had loaned Manafort millions of dollars - loans that Mueller's team alleges were consummated under false pretenses. Instead, prosecutors for Mueller have accuse Manafort of hiding at least $30 million that he earned while representing Russia's neighboring country of Ukraine and its president, Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ellis, known for his courtroom humor and occasional scolding of lawyers, has set strict boundaries on Manafort's trial. Prosecutors objected and Gates never answered the question.

Under questioning, Gates said he may have submitted personal expenses for reimbursement by Trump's inaugural committee, which he helped operate.

He also admitted to leading a "secret life", embezzling funds from his former boss Manafort, and getting involved in other shady dealings.

Defense lawyer Kevin Downing guided Gates on a tour through the wide array of lies he's told, and sought to paint him as a man not to be trusted.

His actions came under scrutiny as part of the broader investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election run by Mueller.

He also admitted to embezzling "several hundred thousand" dollars from Manafort including funds used to finance a London apartment to engage in an extra-marital affair.

Before the final bang - or was it a whimper? - prosecutors had their own opportunity Wednesday morning to revisit with Gates exactly what he had done by way of financial crimes, and the steep, lifelong effect of prison time he could face if he told the jury inaccuracies about Manafort.

Prosecutors relied on Gates to provide first-hand support of the accusations against Manafort. He pleaded guilty to charges in February and is cooperating for the possibility of a reduced sentence.

Manafort's defense team did its darndest to sully Gates as a liar, a cheat, a thief and an adulterer for eight hours inside Judge T.S. Ellis' Alexandria courtroom over the past three days.

Rick Gates, Manafort's long-time deputy, acknowledged having made "many mistakes over many years" but insisted he was telling the court the truth about the alleged financial misdeeds of his former boss.

Gates has told jurors he and Manafort spent years carrying out a vast tax-evasion and bank fraud conspiracy involving millions of dollars. He initially tried to avoid admitting he purposefully lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about a 2013 meeting Manafort attended with a US congressman and tried to avoid using the term "embezzled" in relation to the inflated expense reports he submitted for reimbursement during his employment with Manafort. Referring to Manafort's pretrial confinement, Trump asked whether Manafort was being treated worse than Al Capone. However, Gates also said the agents did not ask about tax returns and "the majority of the Cypriot accounts were closed" at the stage.

"Those appear to be substantially different, don't they?" defense attorney Richard Westling asked Magionos, showing her Manafort's signatures on a loan application to the Bank of California and one of the foreign banking documents.

"I think Gates was a very poor witness". Manafort business partner Rick Gates testified Tuesday that it was Weissmann who confronted him about a lie he had told special counsel investigators, and it was Weissmann who told him he would have to admit to that lie in an additional charge to keep his plea deal with the special counsel's office alive.

Gates served as a deputy for Manafort's political consulting business, and then as his deputy on the Trump campaign in 2016.

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