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

Firefighters extinguish small blaze in Salmon Arm industrial park

A fire in a stack of rubber mats blackened an exterior wall at Dinoflex

Update: Sicamous and Tumbler Ridge neck and neck in the Sled Town Showdown

Both communities in the final round have amassed over 10,000 votes

Another great year for Shuswap moviegoers

Attendance at both the Salmar Grand and Salmar Classic was up last year

Shuswap girl raises funds in memory of two-year-old who died

Wolter family announces formation of Alice’s Angels bursary in honour of their daughter

Salmon Arm Silverbacks overthrow the Powell River Kings 3-2

Two goals from Wakeford and one from Wilson seal the deal

VIDEO: This B.C. school leads country in vaccine donations to UNICEF

Federally funded Kids Boost Immunity uses quizzes to earn vaccinations

Boeser scores 3, Pettersson has 5 points as Canucks hammer Blues

Vancouver picks up impressive 6-1 win in St. Louis

Cold case files: Murdered woman still unidentified after 44 years

Penticton RCMP releasing info on historical missing person and found human remains investigations

Okanagan Valley to see snow tonight

Environment Canada is calling for two-to-four centimetres of snow from Penticton to Salmon Arm

B.C. police stop drunk driver who offered up burger instead of ID

Roadblock checks over the weekend found at least two other impaired drivers

Being vegan during the holidays just got a little bit better

Cook up these delicious options during the holidays

In Canada, the term ‘nationalism’ doesn’t seem to have a bad rap. Here’s why

Data suggest that Canadians don’t see the concept of nationalism the way people do in the United States

Small quake recorded west of Vancouver Island

No injuries or tsunami warning after 5.4 rumble felt some 400 kilometres from Victoria

B.C. suspends Chinese portion of Asian forestry trade mission due to Huawei arrest

Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of U.S. in Vancouver

Most Read