Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Paul Manafort trial Day 7

Paul Manafort trial Day 7

Welch testified after the government's star witness, Rick Gates, ended three days of testimony on Wednesday after admitting he lied, stole money and cheated as lawyers for Manafort, his former boss, attacked his character and credibility.

Manafort, 69, a veteran Republican political operative, was Trump's campaign chairman from May to August 2016, when he was forced to step down amid questions about his work for Ukraine's former pro-Russian leader 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 immediately objected and Downing did not return to the subject after a hushed consultation among the lawyers with Judge T.S. Ellis.

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.

She said even though she worked with Gates a lot, it was clear to her that Manafort "knew what was going on" in most instances. 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. But he was consistent in saying he was now telling the truth and that there was a "strong record" to support his key assertions: that Manafort directed him to hide money from the IRS and fake financial documents to get bank loans.

After Gates struggled to recall precisely what he had told Mueller's team, Downing asked if he had been confronted with "so many lies" that he can't keep his story straight.

The aggressive questioning was aimed at shifting blame from Mr Manafort onto Mr Gates, who pleaded guilty in Mr Mueller's investigation and agreed to co-operate with investigators by testifying in the financial fraud trial.

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Gates, who is 46 and married, admitted: "There was a period in my life, about 10 years ago, when I had a relationship, yes".

During cross examination, Manafort's attorneys pointed out Gates' extramarital affairs, including a woman in London who may have had a hand in the financial crimes Gates to which admitted, Politico reported.

Gates' earlier testimony on Tuesday, meanwhile, centered on how Ukrainian businessmen paid Manafort for his consultancy work.

As part of his plea agreement to cooperate with prosecutors, Gates also admitted to lying to investigators from the special counsel's office - a fact Downing also seized upon.

Kevin Downing, right, attorney for Paul Manafort, leaves federal court after attending the trial on tax evasion and bank fraud of the former Donald Trump campaign chairman in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday.

After Gates left the stand on Wednesday, the jury heard from Morgan Magionos, a forensic accountant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He told jurors he embezzled from Manafort by filing false expense reports. Gates said he was responsible for collecting all relevant documents for the loan applications. Cindy Laporta, one of the accountants, also testified that Manafort and Gates had used phony loan documents to improperly reduce Manafort's income and lower his tax bill.

"It's possible", Gates, who was a Trump campaign aide, replied. He also testified that he pressed the firm's accountants to reclassify loans as income so the company could qualify for more bank loans or get favorable lending rates. The email exchange occurred after Manafort left the Trump campaign but while Gates was active on the Trump inauguration committee. Prosecutors had previously said that Manafort's interactions with Calk were the only part of the trial expected to overlap with his Trump campaign role.

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