Star Witness Gates Testifies He Committed Crimes With Manafort

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Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's ex-business partner has taken the stand against him in his trial on bank and tax fraud charges.

That's what the former Trump campaign chairman's "right-hand man", Rick Gates, told jurors in Manafort's financial fraud trial.

The testimony from Gates, a former adviser to Donald Trump, comes after reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year to testify against his former partner in a lucrative global political consulting firm.

Rick Gates testified today that he committed crimes while working with Paul Manafort. In calling Gates, the government will present jurors with the firsthand account of a co-conspirator expected to say Manafort was knee-deep in an alleged scheme to hide millions of dollars from the IRS and defraud several banks.

The testimony comes hours after Manafort's defense attorneys accused Gates of embezzling as they sought to paint Gates as an untrustworthy witness.

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Gates also mentioned one of his recent employers, President Donald Trump, though he did not use his name.

Two documents could prove troublesome for Manafort, 69. The former Trump campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty to several counts of bank fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, among others, related to his work as a pro-Russia lobbyist in Ukraine.

Gates, who cut a plea deal with Mueller months ago, also confessed to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort, in part by fabricating expense reports. One is a bank employee who appears ready to address an alleged deal between his boss and Manafort, after the bank executive sought a role in the Trump campaign.

Laporta also discussed problems that arose in February 2016 when Manafort needed cash and applied to Citizens Bank for a real-estate loan against property he owned in NY. One came after a September 15, 2015, conference call in which Gates balked at the amount of taxes that Manafort's political consulting firm owed for 2014.

A lawyer for Manafort had said in court Monday afternoon that Gates, who is Manafort's longtime deputy and is regarded as the government's star witness, would be the next witness up.

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Manafort stared directly at Gates as he read aloud the details of his plea agreement, which could see him receive a reduced sentence, at the direction of a prosecution lawyer. In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked the accountant about a $10 million loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006. She said no, explaining a technicality, and leaving the possibility hanging in the air that Manafort and his wife, who split ownership of DMP International, may not have needed to make the disclosures.

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. Testifying under immunity, she was the first witness to admit she knew accounting manoeuvres Manafort and Gates requested of her were wrong and could be crimes.

Under cross-examination, she said at the time she believed Manafort was directing Gates' actions and "knew what was going on".

When asked why had lied, he told prosecutors he had done so at Mr Manafort's request.

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Manafort is charged with four counts of bank fraud and five counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, among other things. Gates has pled guilty to several charges that Mueller brought against him, and he's cooperating with the Mueller probe.

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