Star witness ends testimony in fraud trial of ex-Trump campaign chief

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

This courtroom sketch depicts Rick Gates on the witness stand as he is cross-examined by defense lawyer Kevin Downing during the trial of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank fraud and tax evasion at federal court in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday.

During his three days of testimony, Gates laid out in detail how payments to Manafort's company from political work in Ukraine were made to bank accounts in Cyprus and the money was never reported to accountants or the Internal Revenue Service.

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. Gates testified that Manafort asked him to float Calk, who was on Trump's economic advisory council, for Secretary of the Army. Downing asked Gates Tuesday, a rhetorical question everyone present at the trial with any courtroom experience saw coming a mile away.

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 made a decision to boost his boss' personal income over a period of several years.

"If it doesn't say Men's Warehouse, then I don't know it", Ellis said after learning the pronunciation of the "House of Bijan", where Manafort bought some particularly high-end goods.

Gates, 46, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is cooperating with the government as it prosecutes Manafort for allegedly evading United States taxes on tens of millions of dollars earned from political consulting work they did together in Ukraine from 2006 to 2014. "I already admitted on the record that I took unauthorised funds from Mr Manafort".

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"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. The loan was actually income disguised to lower Manafort's taxes, he said, and then forgiven to help Manafort get a loan.

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.

In one exchange published in court Wednesday, Manafort instructs his Cypriot lawyer, Kypros Chrysostomides - referred to in court as "Dr. K" because, according to Gates, his name is hard to spell and pronounce - to transfer money from the Manafort-controlled Leviathan Ltd.

"After all the lies you've told and the fraud you've committed, you expect this jury to believe you?" "Mr. Manafort had the same path".

Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy and making false statements in exchange for his testimony against Manafort and cooperation with the Special Counsel's office.

After Downing asked Gates Wednesday whether he had multiple affairs, Judge T.S. Ellis had a private conversation, out of earshot of the jury.

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In detailed testimony, Gates walked prosecutors through the step-by-step process on how he and Manafort doctored and backdated documents.

When Downing resumed his questioning about what he called Gates' "secret life", Gates testified that he'd "made many mistakes over many years and I regret them".

Those who dealt with Manafort's taxes also testified that even though they asked Manafort whether he maintained any bank accounts overseas, he told them no. He told jurors he embezzled from Manafort by filing false expense reports. "In reality, it was basically money moving between accounts". But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort.

An FBI forensic accountant also testified $60 million flowed through Manafort's accounts from 2010 to 2014, and he spent $15 million of that on homes, clothes, and personal purchases.

Manafort was on Trump's campaign team from March to August 2016, starting as a delegate-wrangler and serving as campaign chairman in the last three months.

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