Manafort defence attorneys rip into star prosecution witness

Howard TerryAug 10, 2018

A rare mea culpa came from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis for rebuking the prosecution earlier in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's fraud trial.

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.

And IRS agent Michael Welch said Manafort used his foreign income for purchases that included a yacht, horseback riding, Italian villa rental and cosmetic dentistry.

After Yanukovych lost power in 2014, "I would say it decreased the income stream", Gates, wearing a blue suit, told the court matter-of-factly.

"Judge Ellis seems to want the lawyers to try the case the way he would try the case", said Gillers.

While the defense's strategy seems focused destroying Gates' trustworthiness in the eyes of the jury, prosecutors have sought to broaden their case so it's not completely reliant on him.

Manafort is facing another trial in Washington, D.C., later this year on other charges brought against him by Mueller, including obstructing justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and illegal foreign lobbying.

"No doubt at all", Gates said. However, Gates also said the agents did not ask about tax returns and "the majority of the Cypriot accounts were closed" at the stage.

Gates added that Manafort also wanted to give the businessman a heads-up about the FBI's interest in the offshore accounts as part of the USA government's efforts to recover assets stolen under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Paul Manafort lied about the status of his two properties in NY in order to fraudulently obtain a $3.4 million loan, according to testimony Thursday.

Mr Downing forced Gates to admit he had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort by filing bogus personal expenses claims and that he had engaged in an extramarital affair and kept an apartment in London for that goal.

Gates, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller's prosecutors, testified in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, that he helped Manafort falsify documents and move millions of dollars from offshore accounts that were hidden from us tax authorities.

Downing then asked about what he called "the secret life of Rick Gates", inquiring whether Gates kept an apartment in London and if he engaged in an extramarital relationship there.

Mr Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, has indicted more than 30 people - including 26 Russians - in connection with his probe into whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to help get the real estate tycoon elected.

Gates, who was indicted along with Manafort, pleaded guilty and is cooperating with an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "But Mr. Manafort was a longtime client of the firm, and I didn't think I should do that".

Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, is charged with 18 counts of tax and banking crimes and has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He said of Manafort: "I believe he understood his name would not be represented, nor would mine".

Ellis even took aim at journalists, threatening on Monday to kick reporters out of the courtroom if they continue being "disruptive".

According to reports from the courtroom, Ellis has repeatedly clashed with prosecutors during the trial and refused to allow them to present some evidence.

Gates testified this week that he and Manafort committed crimes together.

The FBI forensic accountant, Morgan Magionos, told jurors that bank records from Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom revealed the accounts were connected to Manafort and his associates.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, says Gates was heavily involved in helping hide millions overseas.

He scoffed at the idea Mr 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 Mr Manafort.

So far, the trial has in large part steered clear of direct allegations about the Trump campaign.

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