Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Star witness Gates testifies he committed crimes with Manafort

Star witness Gates testifies he committed crimes with Manafort

Rick Gates, the former associate of one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, is testifying in Manafort's criminal trial for alleged bank and tax fraud.

On Thursday, Aug. 2, jurors heard from Heather Washkuhn, Manafort's longtime bookkeeper, who said her boss and Rick Gates gave banks phony profit-and-loss statements to make it seem like their firm made much more money than it actually had. Gates has confessed to two felony charges as part of his plea bargain agreement with the team of special counsel Mueller, and Manafort's defense attorneys have tried to paint Gates as a shameless, sleazy opportunist who will say anything to save his own skin.

Ellis has hounded special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's prosecution team to sideline evidence and witnesses that are not directly related to the charges against Manafort.

Gates is scheduled to testify further on Tuesday.

When prosecutor Greg Andres asked why, Gates replied: "At Mr. Manafort's direction".

In the beginning of a hugely anticipated courtroom showdown, Gates told jurors that he siphoned off the money without Manafort's knowledge by filing false expense reports. Gates recounted how he and Manafort used more than a dozen offshore shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus to funnel the money, all while concealing the accounts and the income from the IRS.

She told jurors that Manafort and Gates would send her documents that were clearly fake in efforts to either trim the tax bills or inflate income to secure loans from banks.

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Gates, who also served in a senior role in Trump's presidential campaign, said he repeatedly lied to hide the bank accounts and, at Manafort's direction, would classify money that came in as either a loan or income to reduce Manafort's tax burden. When Robert Mueller began investigating Russian interference previous year, Manafort's questionable lobbying work - the sort of activity that has historically rarely been investigated in Washington - was put under a microscope, exposing him and his associates.

As Gates described his involvement in preparing a fraudulent invoice on Manafort's behalf, the former Trump campaign chairman sat with his arms folded across his chest.

On Monday, Judge T.S. Ellis repeatedly clashed with prosecutors about the relevance of such testimony and once again urged them to speed things along. "Let's go to the heart of the matter", Ellis said. "It doesn't matter whether they're good or bad or oligarchs or crooks or mafia or whatever", he said. "I certainly hope you don't mean to offer a history of Ukrainian politics", Ellis snapped.

"When we try to describe the work, Your Honor stops us and tell us to move on", he said.

He testified that he helped "organize the paperwork" for Manafort's secret foreign bank accounts, and that wealthy contributors to Urkaine's former president paid millions of dollars to Manafort for his consulting work.

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"When income came into the company, Mr. Manafort directed whether it would be treated as income.or loans", Gates said. He said his own crimes included cheating on his taxes and lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents just weeks before he pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy and false statements.

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