Gates, star witness against Manafort, concludes testimony

Thursday, 09 Aug, 2018

Earlier on Wednesday, Manafort's protégé Rick Gates wrapped up his three days of testimony after admitting he lied, committed crimes with Manafort, stole money from his boss and cheated on his wife. Prosecutors allege Manafort used various ways to hide his income, including wiring money from Ukraine to the United States via a bank in Cyprus and listing it as a loan, and laundering almost $1 million through the purchases of Oriental rugs.

Manafort, 69, a veteran Republican political operative, was Trump's campaign chairman from May to August 2016, when he was forced to step down amid questions about his work for Ukraine's former pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych.

Ellis, known for his courtroom humor and occasional scolding of lawyers, has set strict boundaries on Manafort's trial.

But Gates did not answer Downing's question after the prosecution objected to the relevance of the inquiry.

"In essence, I was living beyond my means", Gates said. There have been exceptions, like when Gates said that he might have also embezzled from the Trump inauguration committee by inflating his expenses, and when he testified about how Manafort reached out to talk about securing a banker who loaned him money tickets to the inauguration and potentially a position in the administration. Manafort's defence team's has tried to pin much of the blame for financial crimes on Gates and raise doubts about his ethics and morals.

"I thought it was somewhere in the range of a hundred years, your honor", Gates said.

Gates also admitted, however, that the same tricks he used to help doctor and falsify records for Manafort he also deployed for his own personal gain in order to covertly wire funds out of Manafort's offshore accounts to line his own pockets.

"After all the lies you've told, and the fraud you've committed, you expect the jury will believe you?" Gates, a longtime business partner of Manafort, had been working on the incoming president's transition team. Prosecutors agreed to drop a wide variety of additional charges against Gates in exchange for his guilty pleas and cooperation against Manafort.

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, cut Gates off, saying, "this isn't the time for that".

Gates implicated himself in broad criminal conduct on the stand, an apparent strategic decision by prosecutors to take some of the steam out of defense questioning.

Gates' testimony, which began on Monday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, ended Wednesday morning soon after Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing had asked Gates if his "secret life" spanned the years 2010 to 2014. He told jurors he embezzled from Manafort by filing false expense reports. Gates testified that he and Manafort knew they were committing crimes for years, saying they had stashed money in foreign bank accounts and falsified bank loan documents. Referring to Manafort's pretrial confinement, Trump asked whether Manafort was being treated worse than Al Capone.

FBI forensic accountant Morgan Magionos walked jurors through her special counsel-ordained investigation that revealed how Manafort purchased luxury goods back in the USA through foreign bank accounts.

He barked at U.S. Attorney Greg Andres to "focus sharply" - a common refrain of his over the past week - when Andres asked permission for Magionos to testify about charts she put together detailing the flow of money from Manafort's foreign accounts to various vendors in the U.S. He was so desperate, prosecutors say, that he allegedly falsified loan application documents to keep himself afloat.

In a tense day in court, the campaign strategist's longtime deputy, Rick Gates, told jurors how the pair were paid by Ukrainian oligarchs for their work as political consultants in the country.

In December 2016, Manafort sent an "urgent" email to Gates including Calk and Calk's son on a list of people Manafort wanted to receive invitations to Trump's inauguration.