Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

The Sixth Day of Paul Manafort's Trial Was Indirectly About Donald Trump

The Sixth Day of Paul Manafort's Trial Was Indirectly About Donald Trump

"I'm trying to change", Gates said.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has been pushing prosecutors to hurry through their case.

An FBI forensic accountant is telling the jury in Paul Manafort's financial fraud trial how she traced millions of dollars of payments for mortgages, home improvements and expensive cars, rugs and clothes back to his hidden foreign bank accounts. However, the Manafort case - as President Donald Trump has been quick to point out - focuses on Manafort's business dealings and has no direct connection to Manafort's work with the Trump campaign.

Kevin Downing, Manafort's lead defense attorney, sought to undermine Gates' credibility in the eyes of the jury on Tuesday, pressing him about embezzling money from Manafort and an extramarital affair.

Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

He said if Ellis feels that negatively about the prosecution, then he should keep those feelings to himself or he shouldn't be on the case.

During the testimony, Manafort did not stare Gates down as he did Monday.

Gates, who pleaded guilty to charges in February and is cooperating on the possibility of a reduced sentence, has testified that he helped Manafort falsify his tax returns, lie to banks to get loans and hide foreign bank accounts.

In one exchange published in court Wednesday, Manafort instructs his Cypriot lawyer, Kypros Chrysostomides - referred to in court as "Dr. K" because, according to Gates, his name is hard to spell and pronounce - to transfer money from the Manafort-controlled Leviathan Ltd. Gates, a married father of four, faced tough questioning under cross-examination on Tuesday about leading a "secret life". Instead, prosecutors for Mueller have accuse Manafort of hiding at least $30 million that he earned while representing Russia's neighboring country of Ukraine and its president, Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, has indicted more than 30 people - including 26 Russians - in connection with his probe into whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to help get the real estate tycoon elected.


But the defense team has taken on the the daunting task of convincing jurors that Gates, who was in constant communication with Manafort and carrying out his wishes, is an unreliable witness who had simply gone rogue and independently made a decision to boost his boss' personal income over a period of several years.

As part of his plea agreement to cooperate with prosecutors, Gates also admitted to lying to investigators from the special counsel's office - a fact Downing also seized upon.

Gates said he was aware this information was false and it was provided at Manafort's direction. There have been exceptions, like when Gates said that he might have also embezzled from the Trump inauguration committee by inflating his expenses, and when he testified about how Manafort reached out to talk about securing a banker who loaned him money tickets to the inauguration and potentially a position in the administration.

The trial is the first stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's 14-month investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Regarding a trading company Manafort had started with a partner in 2011, he asked with deep scepticism: "You're asking the jury to believe Mr Manafort authorised another US$250,000 as a bonus?"

Mr Manafort's trial in Alexandria is the first to arise out the Mueller probe and marks a major public test of that investigation's credibility.

On Tuesday, Gates did connect one part of the bank fraud charges against Manafort to his role in the Trump campaign.

Gates said he and Manafort created an elaborate operation in Cyprus to use shell companies to secretly accept the money.

"The only answer I was told was to tell the truth", Gates replied. That, Downing said, would invalidate his plea deal.

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