Mueller's 'star witness' returns for testimony in Manafort trial

Mark Wilson  Getty Images North America

Mark Wilson Getty Images North America

Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, on Monday testified at trial that he helped Manafort file false tax returns and did not disclose foreign bank accounts. And there was a reason why prosecutors wanted Gates to paint himself in such a negative light on the witness stand: they wanted to get everything out in the open and demonstrate that at this point, Gates is hiding nothing and is coming clean about his crimes. Manafort stared at Gates as he began his evidence by detailing the plea deal, in which he admitted to two charges, one of conspiracy against the United States, and the other of making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Some of the manoeuvres were at the request of Gates, while others implicated Manafort, Laporta testified.

This courtroom sketch depicts Rick Gates, right, answering questions by prosecutor Greg Andres as he testifies in the trial of Paul Manafort in Alexandria, Va.

But she said she believed Manafort was directing Gates' efforts to disguise loans and hide income, noting that Manafort was copied on her email traffic with Gates.

Later, when Yanukovych fell out of power and fled to Russian Federation, the business struggled and prosecutors say Manafort lied to banks to obtain loans to help maintain his life of luxury.

The trial opened last week with a display of Manafort's opulent lifestyle, then progressed into testimony about what prosecutors say were years of financial deception.

Gates revealed that Pinchuk paid Manafort through a company called Plymouth Consultants Ltd. for what he described as a legal project.

Not once did he let his eyes wander to the defense table, where Manafort sat, arms crossed, staring at his former protégé as he testified against him.

And yesterday, Gates testified that him and Manafort had no less than 15 foreign accounts that they did not report to the USA government-which both of them knew was illegal.

What's Gates telling the court?

Gates' potential sentence would dramatically increase, the jury was told, if he was untruthful on the witness stand. Prosecutors displayed picture after picture of Manafort's extensive wardrobe, including a gaudy ostrich-skin jacket.

Gates is expected to take more questions from prosecutors Tuesday morning, and then the defense's cross-examination is expected to take much, if not all, of the afternoon.

That second part is true - kind of.

The warning came after multiple reporters rushed out of the courtroom at the same time Monday after it was announced that Gates would testify Monday.

Gates admitted on Monday that he did steal money through inflated expense reports, but he said it was hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions as defense lawyers stated.

During his testimony on Monday, Gates described Manafort as "probably one of the most politically brilliant strategists I've ever worked with".

Similar to prior witnesses, Ms Laporta testified Mr Gates and Mr Manafort were in lockstep but that Mr Manafort was in charge.

Manafort claimed that one of his clients overseas owed him $2.4 million, and he wanted that amount added to the income he would report to the bank on his loan application to improve his chances of getting it approved.

Gates didn't respond to any of her emails asking for documents, contracts, and other communications about the alleged forthcoming payment. So far, there has been no evidence made public to substantiate that hope.

Andres said he was entitled to show the jury why Manafort was getting tens of millions of dollars in payments. Ellis overruled the objection.

When the trial broke for lunch Tuesday, Manafort looked back at his wife, sitting in the front row, smiled and winked at her, followed by a quick shake of his head, seeming to indicate he was unfazed or unbothered by the morning's testimony. But she noted that she couldn't imagine a scenario where she would have learned Gates was doing that.

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