Drama grips court as Manafort lawyers accuse Rick Gates of multiple affairs

08 August, 2018, 20:31 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Paul Manafort's associate says 'hundreds' of emails prove former Trump campaign chief directed fraud

Rick Gates is back on the stand for another hour of cross-examination Wednesday, as defense attorneys seek to paint him as far too compromised to offer credible testimony against his former boss.

Gates was hired by Manafort to serve as deputy campaign chairman and later had a role on Mr Trump's inaugural committee.

On Wednesday, Gates initially testified Manafort told him to be truthful during a 2014 interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation about offshore shell companies and bank accounts that contained millions of dollars in proceeds from their Ukrainian political work.

Prosecutors showed contracts laying out that Manafort would be paid $4 million a year in quarterly installments of $1 million, all channeled through Cyprus.

As well as being a senior aide on Trump's election campaign, Gates served as the deputy chairman of the USA president's inaugural committee.

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

Prosecutors had braced for the tough questioning by getting Gates to come clean about his own crimes.

Downing told Judge T.S. Ellis III that he plans to cross-examine Gates for another hour Wednesday morning.

Manafort is charged with 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, and his trial in Alexandria, Va., is the first to be brought on by indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller. The email exchange occurred after Manafort left the Trump campaign but while Gates was active on the Trump inauguration committee.

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Downing accused Gates of lying on expense reports to make trips to London and around Europe.

In other testimony, Gates recounted how he falsified documents for Manafort, including converting a PDF of a profit-and-loss statement to a Microsoft Word document so he could doctor it to inflate the business' income.

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.

Gates finally admitted that he had provided false information prior to striking a plea agreement.

Gates, who was working on Trump's transition team, testified that Manafort had suggested Stephen Calk as a candidate for Army secretary two weeks after Trump was elected.

Prosecutors summoned Gates, described by witnesses as Manafort's "right-hand man, " to give jurors the first-hand account of a co-conspirator they say helped Manafort carry out an elaborate offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud scheme.

Gates acknowledged that he did for two months and that he took first-class flights and stayed in "fancy hotels" around Europe, but said the money came from bonuses rather than illicit gains. He told jurors he embezzled from Manafort by filing false expense reports. But he was consistent in saying he was now telling the truth and that there was a "strong record" to support his key assertions: that Manafort directed him to hide money from the IRS and fake financial documents to get bank loans.

Downing also pressed Gates about creating "fake and phony" invoices to trigger payments to himself from Manafort's accounts in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. "WTF", Manafort wrote to Gates in an email using a common shorthand to show exasperation after learning his projected tax payment for 2014. In addition, he testified, he did not submit the required forms at Manafort's direction. Gates testified they were not loans but compensation to Manafort. Regarding a trading company Manafort had started with a partner in 2011, he asked with deep scepticism: "You're asking the jury to believe Mr Manafort authorised another US$250,000 as a bonus?"

That testimony probably explains one of the minor mysteries of the first week of the Manafort trial.

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