Manafort’s Lawyers Get Personal As Rick Gates’s Testimony Wraps Up

Rick Gates is seen on the witness stand as a message between he and his former boss Paul Manafort appears before the court during Manafort's trial in Virginia. Courtroom illustration courtesy of Bill Hennessy

Paul Manafort's associate says 'hundreds' of emails prove former Trump campaign chief directed fraud

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has repeatedly clashed in the Paul Manafort case with the Judge T.S. Ellis, who has refused to let prosecutors display photos of Manafort's luxury purchases, urged them to hurry up their questions and has even reprimanded one lawyer for being impolite and not looking at the judge while speaking to him.

IRS agent Michael Welch said the total includes foreign wire transfers to US vendors like landscapers and clothiers, wire transfers to buy property, and income reclassified as loans.

Asked if he had been coached, Gates replied, "The only answer I was told was to tell the truth".

"Judge Ellis seems to want the lawyers to try the case the way he would try the case", said Gillers.

The questioning is part of the Manafort defense strategy of presenting Gates to the jury as someone who lies and can not be trusted.

She says Manafort had told the bank that one of the properties would be used as a second residence, but she found it listed as a rental on a real estate website. Gates said it did. However, Gates also said the agents did not ask about tax returns and "the majority of the Cypriot accounts were closed" at the stage.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges in both cases.

Melinda James, a mortgage loan assistant at Citizens Bank, told jurors how Manafort obtained a $3.4 million cash-out refinance in 2016 on a property he owned in Lower Manhattan. Previously, Gates revealed to the court and to the Special Counsel's Office that he had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort out of the foreign accounts when he faked expense reports.

The prosecution has put forward almost 20 witnesses - including Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates - and a trove of documentary evidence as they've sought to prove Manafort defrauded banks and concealed millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts from the IRS. Downing asked Gates Tuesday, a rhetorical question everyone present at the trial with any courtroom experience saw coming a mile away.

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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. "Mr Manafort worked with the local political officials and helped implement policy initiatives based on the campaign promises".

Manafort, 69, faces tax evasion and bank fraud charges, as he is accused of hiding a "significant percentage" of income earned from his lobbyist work in Ukraine from the IRS.

Manafort, a longtime Republican political consultant, used the accounts to receive payments from Ukrainian oligarchs, the jury has heard. "It has nothing to do with your consideration in this case", he said, adding: "This robe doesn't make me anything other than human".

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

During the discussion - one of many during a trial, often called a "sidebar conference" in court lingo - the prosecutors now say they discussed "new" details about their "ongoing criminal investigation" into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. But on Thursday, Ellis told jurors he went overboard when he erupted at prosecutors for allowing an expert witness to remain in the courtroom during the trial.

Gates, a former business partner of Manafort, testified that he began working with Manafort directly in October 2006, and the pair conspired between 2008 and 2015.

For the previous two days in court, Gates has testified that he and Manafort committed bank and tax fraud together.

Rick Gates, who also served in a senior role in President Donald Trump's campaign, has been a key cooperator for special counsel Robert Mueller's team after he cut a plea deal earlier this year.

So far, the trial has in large part steered clear of direct allegations about the Trump campaign.

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