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Manafort's former tax accountant fired by firm after testimony
09 August 2018, 12:45 | Darnell Patrick
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Downing's questions to Gates about affairs and embezzlement cut to the heart of the defense's case trying to undermine Gates' credibility with jury and pin the blame on Gates for Manafort's alleged crimes.
The interview was part of an FBI investigation that sought to recover assets looted from the Ukrainian government under the rule of former President Viktor Yanukovych. This was a way to decrease Manafort's taxable income, added Gates, who did not report the money to Manafort's book-keeper or accountants.
Meanwhile, Downing on Wednesday afternoon tried to draw the jury's attention back to admissions by Gates that he had embezzled funds from Manafort, asking Welch if his client could claim a business embezzlement deduction.
Gates said he did not. "I thought he was needlessly evasive and argumentative", said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney in MI who has been watching the trial and said she observed jurors reacting with negative body language as he testified.
Gates, who has pleaded guilty to a federal crime, testified that he organized fraudulent paperwork both with and without Manafort's knowledge. But Gates nonetheless faced aggressive questioning by Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, who at one point asked him, "After all the lies you've told and the fraud you've committed, you expect this jury to believe you?"
Manafort's accountant was asked about a purported $10 million loan from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Gates also admitted that he covertly wired funds out of Manafort's offshore accounts to line his own pockets, using the same tricks he deployed to help doctor and falsify records for Manafort.
By that time, Gates was working on Trump's inaugural committee.
Prosecutors called their second government witness of the trial to the stand Wednesday to outline the investigative methods that led to the tax evasion charges against Manafort.
He also said he committed credit card and mortgage fraud, falsified a letter for a colleague involved in an investment deal and made false statements in a deposition at Mr Manafort's direction.
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Mr Gates testified he and Mr Manafort knew they were committing crimes for years, saying they had stashed money in foreign bank accounts and falsified bank loan documents.
"Those appear to be substantially different, don't they?" defense attorney Richard Westling asked Magionos, showing her Manafort's signatures on a loan application to the Bank of California and one of the foreign banking documents. Gates said the money in these accounts was earned from Manafort's political campaign work.
"He had these two guys running his campaign!"
Gates, Manafort's longtime right-hand man, pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of lying to an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in exchange for testifying against his former boss. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort and suggesting he has been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano criticized U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III on Wednesday for his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
"Mr. Manafort requested. that we did not disclose foreign bank accounts", Gates testified.
Manafort was chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and his longtime deputy was part of the campaign, too.
That's important to prosecutors, who need to not only prove Manafort skimped on paying millions of dollars in taxes. He banned the word "oligarch" from the courtroom for being "pejorative" and complained last week about prosecutors' attempts to put Manafort on trial "for having a lavish lifestyle". "How could I be blindsided like this".
In a tense day in court, the campaign strategist's longtime deputy, Rick Gates, told jurors how the pair were paid by Ukrainian oligarchs for their work as political consultants in the country.
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