Takeaways from day seven of the Paul Manafort trial

Defense in Manafort trial zeroes in on Gates's 'secret life'

Greg Nash

Paul Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing on Wednesday asked whether longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates had four extramarital affairs - and not just one overseas 10 years ago - implying that Gates might have lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's team and could put his plea deal in jeopardy.

During the first two days of his testimony, Gates admitted to shielding millions of dollars in over a dozen offshore accounts from United States tax collections - all at Manafort's direction.

Gates, under questioning by prosecutor Greg Andres, admitted that he padded his expense accounts with phony charges without Manafort's knowledge, siphoning "several hundred thousand" dollars from the secret accounts.

Cindy Laporta, a tax accountant for Manafort, testified Monday under immunity that she helped file falsified bank loan applications for him even though she knew they were inaccurate.

Gates said that Manafort asked him to meet with one of the Ukrainian businessmen involved in paying him millions of dollars to find out if one of the shell companies used to pay him was a "clean entity".

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

On Tuesday, Downing asked how the jury could believe Gates "after all the lies you told and fraud you committed". 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. Prosecutors objected and Gates never answered the question. And after Rick Gates finished giving his close-up angle on Manafort's financial doings, the prosecution zoomed out to put the financial charges all into context.

Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant Morgan Magionos used charts, emails from Manafort to his lawyers in Cyprus, and other corroborating documents to detail how Manafort funneled roughly $15 million from hidden offshore accounts to purchase home electronic installations, real estate, fancy clothing, such as the now-infamous $15,000 ostrich-skin jacket, and other luxuries from 2010 to 2014.

More recently, after the launch of the Mueller investigation but before his plea bargain, Gates lied to the FBI about a meeting between Manafort and an unnamed US Congressman regarding a "specific issue". He agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI.

Both Manafort and Gates were indicted a year ago on charges of bank and tax fraud as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Manafort's defense team's primary strategy has been to pin much of the blame for financial crimes on Gates, and some observers felt Downing made some headway toward that goal on Tuesday.

"That's really beyond the pale for the judge", Litman said of the exchange, which took place during cross-examination, in front of the jury.

The judge's comments come after prosecutors said in a written filing that Ellis had authorized Welch to watch the trial and the reprimand could have prejudiced the jury.

In addition to the unreported income, Welch said that Manafort listed dubious business expenses such as 132,000 euros to a yacht company, $49,000 for an Italian villa rental, $45,000 for cosmetic dentistry and $19,800 for a riding academy, according to The Washington Post.

After Mr Gates described his theft as "unauthorised transactions" instead of embezzlement, Mr Downing prodded him to use the latter term - and Mr Gates ultimately relented, saying: "It was embezzlement from Mr Manafort". His lawyers attacked his former colleague's character and credibility in court this week.

"I'm here to tell the truth".

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