Judge in Manafort trial: 'I was probably wrong' to criticize prosecutors

In testimony Tuesday Rick Gates detailed various schemes he engaged in while working for Paul Manafort

Joshua Roberts Reuters In testimony Tuesday Rick Gates detailed various schemes he engaged in while working for Paul Manafort

Manafort, the high-powered political consultant, is facing 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud and a maximum 305-year prison sentence if the Eastern Virginia jury finds him guilty.

Although Manafort is not on trial for anything he did while working for Trump, the case is being seen as a key test for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who brought the charges.

Also on Wednesday, an Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant, Morgan Magionos, told jurors bank records from Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom revealed the accounts were connected to Manafort and his associates.

Gates also said that he did not report 15 foreign offshore bank accounts to the government. He made other payments to an Italian villa vacation home rental agency and a horseback riding academy in New Jersey.

Gates, who had been on stand for more than seven hours by conclusion of Tuesday's testimony, is anticipated to be on stand for an additional hour more of cross-examination, according to Manafort's attorneys.

Manafort's defense team says it was actually Gates who committed the financial crimes, without Manafort knowing, and Manafort's lawyers also have sought to exploit the guilty plea that Gates has accepted after he was indicted on related charges.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has made headlines in recent days for his clashes with the prosecutors, including pressing them on the speed and merits of the prosecution and suggesting one prosecutor was so discouraged he was crying in the courtroom.

"I'm here to tell the truth and take responsibility for my actions", Gates said in response to a question from Downing about his trustworthiness.

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Gates said the money he took was sent to his account in the United Kingdom and was never disclosed to his accountants or the US government.

Gates' previous testimony underscored how much Gates knew about Manafort's wire transfers and the lies other witnesses have said Manafort told the IRS, tax preparers and his bookkeeper. But Gates' testimony also revealed he was a deeply disreputable co-conspirator as Manafort's underling. As part of a quid pro quo, they allege bank Chief Executive Steve Calk was named an adviser to Trump's 2016 campaign and that Manafort pushed for him to get a senior post once Trump was elected.

But by calling a bank employee to the stand Thursday morning, prosecutors have started laying out more evidence of Manafort's alleged efforts to use false and misleading documents to obtain loans after his income flow dried up and as he began running out of money.

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

The prosecution's case against Manafort doesn't rest exclusively on Gates. Manafort welcomed more than $65 million from Ukrainian political backers' foreign entities into his own secret Cypriot and other offshore accounts during Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's four years in office, according to Magionos. Andres prompted Gates to point out where the money came from that he had stolen. "Mr. Manafort had the same path", Gates said.

Manafort attorney Richard Westling also attempted to sow doubt in Magionos's testimony regarding the authenticity of the Manafort signature on various documents that were presented.

"The idea of exchanging income for loans reduced his overall tax liability", Gates said.

"I would be surprised, given what's occurred in the Manafort trial, if Judge Ellis didn't issue this relatively standard instruction", Abramson said.

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