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

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing got in a final shot in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, raising the possibility Gates had four extramarital affairs and then asking if he had a "secret life" from 2010 to 2014.


Reuters 08 Aug 2018, 09:01 PM United States

Star government witness Rick Gates ended three days of testimony on Wednesday after admitting he lied, stole money and cheated on his wife, as lawyers for U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort attacked his character.

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing got in a final shot in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, raising the possibility Gates had four extramarital affairs and then asking if he had a "secret life" from 2010 to 2014.

"I have made many mistakes over many years," replied Gates, 46, a married father of four.

Downing had completed the bulk of his cross-examination on Tuesday, firing questions at Gates for several hours as he sought to portray him as an inveterate liar and thief to undermine his credibility with the jury.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. According to trial testimony, he used the accounts to receive millions of dollars in payments from Ukrainian oligarchs.

Manafort, a longtime Republican political consultant, is the first person to be tried on charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Manafort made millions of dollars working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians before he took an unpaid position with the Trump campaign that lasted five months.

Gates, who worked as Manafort’s right-hand man for a decade, served as deputy chairman of the Trump campaign. He pleaded guilty to charges in February and is cooperating for the possibility of a reduced sentence.

He testified at length about how he and Manafort doctored and backdated financial documents, hid foreign income and falsified tax returns. He said he engaged in the wrongdoing at Manafort's direction.

He also admitted to leading a "secret life," embezzling funds from his former boss Manafort, and getting involved in other shady dealings. And the defense has tried to pin much of the blame for the financial crimes on him.

After the cross-examination concluded, prosecutor Greg Andres asked Gates whether the special counsel's office had tried to coach him on how to testify.

"The only answer I was told was to tell the truth," Gates replied.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY

After Gates left the stand on Wednesday, the jury heard from Morgan Magionos, a forensic accountant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She said she had identified 31 accounts located in Cyprus, the Grenadines and the United Kingdom belonging to Manafort. She explained how she traced payments for luxury items back to those hidden bank accounts, describing documents from banks and corporations and how the corporate entities and offshore accounts were linked to Manafort.

Prosecutors also introduced emails from Manafort to vendors of luxury items he bought in which he promises payment via wire transfers from "my" account, citing some of the offshore entities he is accused of using to hide his wealth.

Such evidence could affect Manafort's second trial in September on related charges, including witness tampering and making false statements, in connection with lobbying work he performed for the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government.

A conviction of Manafort would undermine efforts by Trump and some Republican lawmakers to paint Mueller's inquiry as a political witch hunt, while an acquittal would be a setback for the special counsel.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, on Wednesday again called for Mueller to end his inquiry "without further delay."

Prosecutors have said they hope to finish presenting their case by the end of the week. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis has repeatedly prodded them to move swiftly while seemingly giving the defense more latitude. He also has made comments that some legal experts suggest go too far and may tilt the scales.

On Tuesday, for instance, Gates testified that Manafort was very good about knowing where his money was.

“Well, he missed the amounts of money you stole from him, though, didn’t he?” the judge asked.

“Yes, that’s correct,” Gates said.

“So he didn’t do it that closely,” the judge said.

Washington attorney Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor in Virginia who has appeared before Ellis hundreds of times, said the comment was "classic Judge Ellis injecting his views into the courtroom."

Such comments, along with other ways Ellis has been rough on prosecutors, could be an indication of the judge's feelings toward the case, said Rossi, who has been watching the trial. But it does not necessarily mean the jury will take his view.

If he is too tough, Rossi said, the jury might “start to feel sorry for the prosecution."

Although questions tied to the Trump campaign have been severely limited at trial, Manafort remains a central figure in the broader inquiry into the Trump campaign's dealings with Russia, including a 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Russians promised "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and his role in watering down the 2016 Republican Party platform position on Ukraine.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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