Kathleen Manafort, right, wife of Paul Manafort, arrives to attend the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as it continues in federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Cross-examination focuses on Manafort protege’s own crimes

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial continues in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

The questioning of Paul Manafort’s protege was confrontational and personal: Manafort’s lawyer hammered Rick Gates about his own crimes, an extramarital affair and a guilty plea with prosecutors that may spare him severe punishment.

Gates, who faced a bruising cross-examination, returns to the witness stand Wednesday for additional questioning from a Manafort lawyer who accused the government’s star witness of being immersed in “so many lies” that he can’t even remember them all and who demanded to know how a jury could possibly trust him.

Lawyers for Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, are determined to impugn the credibility of Gates. Defence attorney Kevin Downing began his cross-examination of Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy and fellow Trump campaign aide, by confronting him on his own lies to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, getting him to admit to an affair and pressing him about hundreds of thousands of dollars he admitted to embezzling from his former boss.

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

“After all the lies you’ve told and the fraud you’ve committed, you expect this jury to believe you?” Downing asked incredulously.

Gates said he did, but the defence lawyer wasn’t satisfied. He scoffed at the idea that Gates had repented for his actions, noting that prosecutors have said they won’t oppose his bid for probation and getting him to acknowledge he had not repaid the money he had taken from Manafort.

After Gates described his theft as “unauthorized transactions” instead of embezzlement, Downing prodded him to use the latter term — and Gates ultimately relented, saying, “It was embezzlement from Mr. Manafort.”

Prosecutors had braced for the tough questioning by getting Gates to come clean about his own crimes. He told jurors how he disguised millions of dollars in foreign income as loans in order to lower Manafort’s tax bill. 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.

Related: Manafort accused of amassing ‘secret income’ as trial opens

Related: What does Mueller have? Manafort trial offers glimpse

Related: Judge sends Trump’s ex-campaign chair Paul Manafort to jail

But the grilling got more intense, and personal, Tuesday afternoon when Downing pressed Gates about a “secret life” he said was funded by embezzlement, including an extramarital affair that Gates himself acknowledged. Gates also said he may have submitted personal expenses for reimbursement by Trump’s inaugural committee, which he helped operate.

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.

Gates implicated himself in broad criminal conduct on the stand, an apparent strategic decision by prosecutors to take some of the steam out of defence questioning. He told jurors he embezzled from Manafort by filing false expense reports. 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 Manafort’s direction.

Prosecutors summoned Gates to give jurors the first-hand account of a co-conspirator they say helped Manafort carry out an elaborate offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud scheme. Gates testified that he and Manafort knew they were committing crimes for years, saying they had stashed money in foreign bank accounts and falsified bank loan documents.

“In Cyprus, they were documented as loans. In reality, it was basically money moving between accounts,” Gates said.

Manafort and Gates were the first two people indicted in Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Gates pleaded guilty months later and agreed to co-operate in Mueller’s investigation of Manafort, the only American charged by the special counsel to opt for trial instead of a guilty plea.

The case has little to do with either man’s work for the Trump campaign and there’s been no discussion during the trial about whether the Trump election effort co-ordinated with Russia — the central question Mueller’s team has tried to answer. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort.

On Tuesday, Gates did connect one part of the bank fraud charges against Manafort to his role in the Trump campaign.

He said Manafort asked for tickets to Trump’s inauguration so he could give them to a banker involved in approving a loan at the centre of his financial fraud trial. Gates also said Manafort floated banker Stephen Calk’s name for consideration as Secretary of the Army, a post he ultimately did not get. The email exchange occurred after Manafort left the Trump campaign but while Gates was active on the Trump inauguration committee.

Gates described to jurors how he repeatedly submitted fake financial documents at Manafort’s behest as his former boss became concerned he was paying too much in taxes and, later, that his funds were drying up.

“WTF,” Manafort wrote to Gates in one email shown to the jury. “How could I be blindsided like this. You told me you were on top of this. We need to discuss options. This is a disaster.”

In other testimony, Gates recounted how he converted a PDF of a profit-and-loss statement to a Microsoft Word document so he could doctor it to inflate the business’ income. Gates also fabricated a forgiveness letter for what he said was already a fake loan between Manafort’s consulting company and a Cypriot entity he controlled.

During the testimony, Manafort did not stare Gates down as he did Monday. When the trial broke for lunch, Manafort looked back at his wife, sitting in the front row, smiled and winked at her, followed by a quick shake of his head, seeming to indicate he was unfazed by the morning’s testimony.

___

Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.

__

Eric Tucker, Matthew Barakat And Chad Day, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

Alberta readies itself for cannabis sales with 17 stores (for now) and a new provincial website

Ponoka mayor & council takes on province for recreation funding

Mayor Rick Bonnett wants school requisition for three years

Ponoka County on the hook for rubber tire shredder

Cost of large shredder may yet fall completely on county as problems arise

Ponoka council approved a cannabis retail sales bylaw

Along with retail sales, the cannabis consumption bylaw was approved

Ponoka County approves Morningside ASP, MDP and North West decision is deferred

More information on protecting existing CFOs necessary prior to North West ASP approval

VIDEO: First legal cannabis purchases as midnight strikes in eastern Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador was the first province to kick off the sale of cannabis, just after midnight local time

U.S. pot firm urges Trump to deny Canadian producers ‘competitive advantage’

The challenge for U.S. firms lies in the fact that while recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medicinal pot in 22 others, it remains illegal under federal law

How rules for inmate segregation in Canada will change under Bill C-83

Federal government proposing changes to rules around inmates in federal correctional institutions

Canada Post union issues strike notice; rotating strikes could begin Monday

Union says rotating strikes will begin if agreements aren’t reached with bargaining units

Ponoka family remembers fallen WWI soldier

A Ponoka soldier killed in action in the Great War is remembered

Remember When: Ponoka Stampede 1962 champs

This historic photo shows the champions of the Central Alberta Stampede Association from 1962

Annual Texas Longhorn show and sale draws local and international attention

ATLA part of a growing Canadian market for Texas Longhorn genetics

$500,000 goal well within reach for Ponoka’s Festival of Trees

Annual fundraiser just under $137,000 from attaining its long-term goal for the Ponoka hospital

Killer-rapist Paul Bernardo set for parole bid after 25 years in prison

Bernardo’s parole hearing at the Bath Institution is expected to attract numerous observers

Most Read