Star witness testimony ends under attack by ex-Trump aide Manafort's lawyer

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

At first, Gates merely noted that in March 2016 Manafort hired him to work for "one of the presidential candidates". So frequent were Gates's crimes that he could not answer definitively when asked if he had stolen money from the Trump inauguration committee, for which he served as deputy chairman.

Earlier on Tuesday, the prosecution had continued to question Gates, who described how millions of dollars were allegedly funnelled from entities controlled by Ukrainian businessmen into Manafort's shell companies in Cyprus. "I'm here", Gates responded. 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.

Paul Manafort hid more than 30 offshore accounts in three types of currencies from the IRS, according to an Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant testifying in the former Trump campaign chairman's trial. Gates said the money in these accounts was earned from Manafort's political campaign work.

But the defense team has taken on the the daunting task of convincing jurors that Gates, who was in constant communication with Manafort and carrying out his wishes, is an unreliable witness who had simply gone rogue and independently chose to boost his boss' personal income over a period of several years.

Prosecutor Greg Andres immediately objected and Downing did not return to the subject after a hushed consultation among the lawyers with Judge T.S. Ellis.

Gates said under questioning Wednesday that he told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Justice Department lawyers about some of the offshore companies that contained millions of dollars in proceeds from their Ukrainian political work.

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Manafort, 69, is the first defendant to go to court to fight charges stemming from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 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 is the first person to be tried on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election.

"He always had control over the accounts", Gates said of Manafort, and the income was not reported to his bookkeepers, his accountants or the United States tax authorities. These questions about Gates' extramarital tryst also carried faint echoes of Trump, coming less than a month after the release of a tape in which Trump can be heard discussing buying the rights to the story of a woman who claimed to have had an affair with him. "We need to discuss Steve Calk for Sec (retary) of the Army", Manafort wrote to Gates in an email on November 24, 2016.

The tough questioning of Gates came after he spent hours telling jurors how he disguised millions of dollars in foreign income as loans in order to lower Manafort's tax bill. Both sides agreed ahead of time to limit discussion of the campaign so as not to prejudice the jury, though they had agreed to allow testimony about the overlap of a bank loan with Manafort's role in the campaign. That includes longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who testified against his former boss.

Paul Manafort's protege on Wednesday wrapped up his testimony after implicating the former Trump campaign chairman and himself in financial crimes and also enduring stinging attacks on his character and credibility. Downing had said he wanted to ask the question because it spoke to whether Gates had lied to Mueller's office, and whether Gates' plea agreement would still be valid.

When asked if he took "unauthorized expenses" from Manafort to "fund your separate secret life", Gates replied, "yes, I acknowledge I had a period of time where I had another relationship". "Mr Manafort worked with the local political officials and helped implement policy initiatives based on the campaign promises".

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