Manafort trial day 5: Rick Gates to take the stand
Gates is considered the star witness for the prosecution against Manafort — and his testimony in an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom is the first time he's known to have faced Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, since he agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's team in February.
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Gates' central roles in the campaign and transition of President Donald Trump have made him a pivotal witness in Mueller's ongoing probe. But he was also at Manafort's side while the pair conducted a lobbying effort on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine years before they joined Trump.
There had been indications that he might be about to testify. Gates' lawyer, Tom Green, was spotted Monday in an overflow courtroom where reporters and the public can watch a feed of the proceedings, and several document boxes marked “Gates” were wheeled into the courtroom by the prosecution just as the afternoon session got underway.
Gates and Manafort were charged in October with money laundering, making false statements and other counts. The two former aides pleaded not guilty, but Gates later admitted to taking part in a conspiracy to hide tens of millions of dollars that the pair obtained for their lobbying and consulting work. Gates also acknowledged that, during a debriefing with the special counsel’s office and the FBI, he lied about the pair’s Ukraine-related work.
Manafort's accountant says he 'knew what was going on'
Earlier on Monday, Manafort's accountant Cindy Laporta continued testimony from Friday, saying she had a sense that what Manafort and Gates told her about money being transferred into their international political consulting business wasn’t accurate.
Testifying under a grant of immunity, Laporta said Friday that she filed tax returns for Manafort and his businesses that she did not think were true. Defense lawyer Kevin Downing pressed her Monday on whether she’d gone to Manafort directly when she thought information Gates was providing was inaccurate or incomplete.
“I didn’t do that. I think Mr. Manafort, in most instances, it was clear that Mr. Manafort knew what was going on,” she said.
When Downing suggested Laporta didn’t do anything about her concerns, she insisted that was wrong. “I did raise issues,” she said.
Laporta said she’d raised those concerns with Gates.
“I’m sure he reacted well to that,” Downing said sarcastically.
“He didn’t respond,” Laporta said.
Downing suggested in a question that Gates had embezzled millions of dollars from Manafort. That drew an objection from the prosecution that U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III overruled. Laporta never gave any indication she thought embezzlement was underway, but she said accountants learn in professional education programs that embezzlers tend not to share accurate information with the accountants.