Star U.S. witness Gates testifies he committed crimes with Manafort


Experts have billed Gates as the star witness in the tax evasion and bank fraud trial that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is prosecuting against Manafort who is facing 18 counts of tax evasion.

Rick Gates, Manafort's former partner in crime (literally, it turns out), took the stand to detail the many shady sides of the global lobbying business he helped the ex-superlobbyist run for years.

Though he was in court to testify against Manafort, Gates offered praise of Manafort's consulting abilities, which he said brought ex-President Viktor Yanukovych "back from the proverbial political dead". Gates says he admitted the conduct to the government as part of his cooperation agreement.

Asonye followed up by asking, "Did you commit any crimes with Mr. Manafort?"

Gates pleaded guilty in February to a bank fraud conspiracy charge in exchange for testifying against his former boss. Rick Gates became the first member of the Trump campaign to publicly admit to crimes.

Gates also testified he and Manafort knew it was a crime because they had been notified by Manafort's accountants in emails.

The jury heard testimony on Friday and Monday (local time) from accountant Cynthia Laporta, who described how Mr Manafort and Mr Gates doctored financial statements and backdated loans.

The testimony from Gates, a former adviser to Donald Trump, comes after reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year to testify against his former partner in a lucrative worldwide political consulting firm.

Manafort, Gates said, was probably the "most politically brilliant strategist I've ever worked with". Lawyers then met privately with the judge for a bench conference.

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All told, prosecutors allege that Manafort failed to report a "significant percentage" of the more than $60 million they say he received from Ukrainian oligarchs.

The President is watching proceedings carefully as Mueller appears to be moving closer to his inner circle on multiple fronts and has complained that Manafort has been treated like a mobster - even as the White House has tried to open up some distance between Trump and his former campaign chairman.

The prosecution didn't confirm that Gates, a prosecution witness, would be next.

During that part of Gates' testimony, he said that he lied in a deposition - part of an unrelated case - about the private equity firm run by Manafort's consulting group.

On Monday, Ms LaPorta was asked by prosecutors if she had been aware of a $10m loan from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska that the district attorney said was "supposedly made in 2006".

But she said she was under the impression that Mr Manafort had been directing his deputies' actions and "knew what was going on".

Gates has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe after he cut a plea deal earlier this year.

The most critical moment in the financial fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will likely arrive this week with the testimony of his "right-hand man" - the person defense attorneys blame for any crimes.

The criminal case has nothing to do with either man's work for the Trump campaign and there's been no discussion during the trial about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Federation - the central question Mueller's team has tried to answer.