The bruising cross-examination of Paul Manafort’s protege continues today, with Rick Gates set to return to the witness stand for a third day.
Mr Gates – the government’s star witness in a case against Donald Trump’s erstwhile campaign chairman – was yesterday accused of being immersed in “so many lies” he cannot remember them all.
Lawyers for Mr Manafort are challenging the credibility of Mr Gates. Defence lawyer Kevin Downing has already pressed Mr Gates on lies he told special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators and on the hundreds of thousands of dollars he admitted to embezzling from his former boss.
Mr Downing briefly ventured into territory the two sides mostly avoided for the first five days of the trial: the president’s presidential campaign. The charges are not related to Mr Manafort’s work with the Trump campaign.
Today, the lawyer is set to grill Mr Gates further about a “secret life” he claims was funded by embezzlement and about an extramarital affair that Mr Gates has admitted.
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Some highlights from yesterday, while we wait for today's hearing to begin...
Mr Gates testified Mr Manafort instructed him not to tell their firm’s bookkeeper about payments from accounts in Cyprus that held millions of dollars in earnings from consulting work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, with “hundreds of emails” showing that Mr Manafort had approved payments out of the account.
The defence are expected to get around another hour today to question Mr Gates, before prosecutors will get a chance to review some of the possibly damaging testimony he gave.
The court reconvened for its seventh day of trial at 9:50 a.m., with Mr Gates expected to take the stand for another hour — his third day of testimony.
Cindy Laporta, Mr Manafort's former accountant who admit to filing falsified tax returns during testimony last week, has been fired from the firm she currently works at, Bloomberg reported.
The Kositzka, Wicks & Co firm released a statement saying it was "shocked by Ms. Laporta’s testimony, which clearly represents that she failed to meet the firm’s high standards for professional and ethical conduct in her work for Mr. Manafort."
Ms Laporta has been granted immunity in exchange for her testimony against the president’s former campaign chairman.
Mr Manafort's defense attorney Kevin Downing resumed cross-examination against Mr Gates.
Mr Gates testified that, during an FBI interview in 2014, he revealed to the federal government the names of several banks in which he and Mr Manafort opened accounts across Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He also said he met with Mr Manafort before the FBI interview, and Mr Manafort told him to be "open" regarding the accounts.
Mr Gates said he was "open and truthful" during his interview with investigators. When asked whether he knew Mr Manafort's net worth between 2016 and 2016, he said: "I thought somewhere in the realm of $6m to $12m.”
The star witness in Paul Manafort's financial fraud trial says the former Trump campaign chairman told him to be truthful about offshore shell companies and bank accounts during a 2014 interview with the FBI.
Rick Gates says that he told FBI agents and Justice Department lawyers about some of the offshore companies that contained millions of dollars in proceeds from their Ukrainian political work. He did not reveal and hidden income, however, and said that agents had not asked about any tax returns at the time of his interview.
Gates made the statement under cross examination by Manafort attorney Kevin Downing.
The interview related to an FBI investigation that sought to recover assets looted from the Ukrainian government under the rule of former President Viktor Yanukovych.
Prosecutors have noted that Gates and Manafort were not the targets of the investigation at the time of the interview.
Prosecutor Greg Andres asked Mr Gates whether the Special Counsel’s office had instructed him on how to respond to questioning during Mr Manafort’s trial.
His response: "The only answer I was told was to tell the truth."
Previously, Mr Gates testified that he had met with federal officials on 20 occasions ahead of the trial in order to prepare for his testimony.
Mr Gates testified that Mr Manafort said they did not need to report the foreign bank accounts or any of their transactions to tax advisers. He also said that he had previously told FBI agents he was embezzling money from Mr Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Prosecutor Greg Andres questioned Mr Gates about the extramarital affair he admit to yesterday. Mr Gates said the five-month affair occurred nearly 10 years ago, and that he had informed Mr Manafort about it, along with his wife.
When asked about his plea deal and the prison time he faced, Mr Gates said he thought he was facing “in the range of 100 years.”
Prosecutors began questioning the star witness in Paul Manafort’s financial fraud trial about his “secret life,” after he told them he had “no doubt at all” that his plea deal would be ripped to shreds if he was found guilty of lying during testimony.
Defense attorney Kevin Downing brought up the extramarital affair Rick Gates admit to yesterday while pointing out nearly $3m in financial transactions between 2010 to 2014. Mr Downing has claimed those transactions represent money Mr Gates embezzled from Mr Manafort — a crime he previously admit to during testimony and to FBI agents.
Mr Downing then asked Mr Gates if he remembered telling the Special Counsel he “actually engaged in four extramarital affairs.”
The questioning led to objections from prosecutors, who questioned its relevancy. The attorneys convened at the bench with Judge TS Ellis III for a long conversation as white noise played throughout the court room.
Mr Downing did not ask the same question about Mr Gates’ alleged multiple affairs when the conference ended, instead returning to previous questioning about his “secret life.”
Mr Gates then revealed a second extramarital affair, saying to Mr Downing, “I’d say I made many mistakes over many years.” The judge interrupted, demanding Mr Gates admit whether the affair occurred between 2010 and 2014, when the financial transactions were made.
“It did,” Mr Gates said.
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