MANAFORT TRIAL UPDATE | Gates, star witness against Manafort, concludes testimony
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Paul Manafort's protégé today wrapped up his testimony after implicating the former Trump campaign chairman and himself in financial crimes and also enduring stinging attacks on his character and credibility.
Rick Gates has been the government's star witness in Manafort's financial fraud trial, testifying how, at the behest of his longtime boss, he helped conceal millions of dollars in foreign income and submitted fake mortgage and tax documents.
Defense lawyers saw an opening to undermine his testimony by painting him as liar and a philanderer, getting him to admit to an extramarital affair and reminding jurors how he had lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's team while working out a plea deal for himself.
The testimony, stretching across three days, created an extraordinary courtroom showdown between the two former Trump campaign aides who were indicted together by Mueller but who have since opted for radically different strategies: Manafort is the lone American charged by Mueller to opt for trial, whereas Gates pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate by testifying against his former boss.
Neither man was charged in connection with their Trump campaign work, but the trial has nonetheless been a distraction for a president who insists Manafort was treated shabbily and who continues to publicly fume about Mueller's investigation into potential ties between his associates and the Kremlin.
Prosecutors sandwiched the testimony of Gates around other witnesses who, in sometimes dry and detailed testimony, described Manafort's lavish spending and use of offshore accounts to stash Ukrainian political consulting fees.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — The questioning of Paul Manafort's protege was confrontational and personal: Manafort's lawyer hammered Rick Gates about his own crimes, an extramarital affair and a guilty plea with prosecutors that may spare him severe punishment.
Gates, who faced a bruising cross-examination, returned to the witness stand today for additional questioning from a Manafort lawyer who accused the government's star witness of being immersed in "so many lies" that he can't even remember them all and who demanded to know how a jury could possibly trust him.
Lawyers for Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, are determined to impugn the credibility of Gates.
Defense attorney Kevin Downing began his cross-examination of Gates, Manafort's longtime deputy and fellow Trump campaign aide, by confronting him on his own lies to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, getting him to admit to an affair and pressing him about hundreds of thousands of dollars he admitted to embezzling from his former boss.
The aggressive questioning was aimed at shifting blame from Manafort onto Gates, who pleaded guilty in Mueller's investigation and agreed to cooperate with investigators by testifying in the financial fraud trial.
"After all the lies you've told and the fraud you've committed, you expect this jury to believe you?" Downing asked incredulously.
Gates said he did, but the defense lawyer wasn't satisfied. He scoffed at the idea that Gates had repented for his actions, noting that prosecutors have said they won't oppose his bid for probation and getting him to acknowledge he had not repaid the money he had taken from Manafort.
After Gates described his theft as "unauthorized transactions" instead of embezzlement, Downing prodded him to use the latter term – and Gates ultimately relented, saying, "It was embezzlement from Mr. Manafort."
Prosecutors had braced for the tough questioning by getting Gates to come clean about his own crimes. He told jurors how he disguised millions of dollars in foreign income as loans in order to lower Manafort's tax bill. Gates recounted how he and Manafort used more than a dozen offshore shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus to funnel the money, all while concealing the accounts and the income from the IRS.