Mueller's 'star witness' testifies against former boss Paul Manafort

Geraldine Edwards
August 7, 2018

Paul Manafort's former deputy Rick Gates took the stand Monday and admitted to committing crimes with his then-boss.

Prosecutors have been preparing for this credibility battle by asking a number of witnesses speak to Manafort's role as a supervisor over Gates.

Special counsel Robert Mueller originally charged Gates alongside Manafort, but Gates reached a plea deal with Mueller in exchange for cooperating in the investigation. Prosecutors were expected to ask Gates for an inside look at what they say was a scheme by Manafort to use offshore bank accounts, shell companies and wire transfers as to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax bills.

What's Gates telling the court?

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One came after a September 15, 2015, conference call in which Gates balked at the amount of taxes that Manafort's political consulting firm owed for 2014.

The former Trump campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty to several counts of bank fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, among others, related to his work as a pro-Russia lobbyist in Ukraine.

Gates, 46, is already facing up to five years in prison under the terms of a plea deal he struck with prosecutors in February when he pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

During opening arguments last week, the defense team made it clear they intend to blame Gates, who handled some day-to-day business operations for Manafort, for numerous alleged reporting deficiencies Manafort is charged with.

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"Rick Gates had his hand in the cookie jar, and he couldn't take the risk that his boss might find out", Zehnle said.

The Manafort trial marks the first major court test for the Mueller investigation.

Testimony from Mr Manafort's tax preparer continued on Monday.

One accounting trick saved Manafort $500,000 in taxes, she said. Laporta, looking at a summary of loans to Manafort and his businesses, said she could not see any indication that the loan from Deripaska had been paid off.

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Manafort is facing 18 charges in his Virginia trial, which began this week, and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. Laporta noted that each year she requested information - in writing - regarding any potential foreign bank accounts.

"It's kind of leading up to Gates" testimony that, "Yep, this is what he was telling me to do, '" the former US prosecutor said. Similar to prior witnesses, Laporta testified that Gates and Manafort were in lockstep but that Manafort was in charge.

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