Federal Bureau of Investigation says ex-Trump campaign chairman hid over 30 offshore accounts

Clay Curtis
August 9, 2018

Earlier on Wednesday, Manafort's protégé Rick Gates wrapped up his three days of testimony after admitting he lied, committed crimes with Manafort, stole money from his boss and cheated on his wife.

Gates said under questioning Wednesday that he told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Justice Department lawyers about some of the offshore companies that contained millions of dollars in proceeds from their Ukrainian political work. Gates testified that Manafort asked him to float Calk, who was on Trump's economic advisory council, for Secretary of the Army.

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 chose to boost his boss' personal income over a period of several years.

Mr Gates said he did, but the defence lawyer wasn't satisfied. 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 Kevin Downing, an attorney representing Manafort, got in one final swipe at Gates before his testimony came to an end.

The questioning of Paul Manafort's protege during the political consultant's financial fraud trial has turned confrontational and personal, focusing on Rick Gates' own crimes as well as an extramarital affair and a plea agreement. The loan was actually income disguised to lower Manafort's taxes, he said, and then forgiven to help Manafort get a loan.

The exchange between Gates and Manafort's team could be a key moment in the first case that Mueller's team has taken to trial as part of its broad investigation into Russian election meddling.

"I have made many mistakes over many years", Gates, 46, replied.

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.

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.

Suspected Russian spy found working in US embassy in Moscow
Russian policemen stand guard in front of the US Embassy in Moscow on December 30, 2016. Punitive action, however, was not taken as the matter was being probed.

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".

He testified under terms of a deal with Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who's investigating suspected collusion between Russian Federation and Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, cut Gates off, saying, "this isn't the time for that".

Gates has told jurors he and Manafort spent years carrying out a vast tax-evasion and bank fraud conspiracy involving millions of dollars.

Manafort's lawyers consistently tried to paint Gates as an unreliable witness, and Gates' last day of testimony was no different. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort.

Prosecutor Greg Andres recalled how the defense team had implied Gates was getting out of a 200-year prison sentence by testifying.

"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.

After saying Monday that he committed crimes with Manafort, including concealing offshore accounts to avoid reporting them to the USA government at tax time and claiming false income to get loans, Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing asked the witness, "This jury is just supposed to believe you after all the lies that you've told and the fraud you've committed?"

Manafort was chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and his longtime deputy was part of the campaign, too.

He told the jury that Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, loaned himself money between two Cypriot accounts because "he was trying to decrease his taxable income".

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