Rick Gates, under cross examination at the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of his former boss Paul Manafort, admitted that he had "another relationship" involving first-class flights and luxury hotels, but denied these were funded with money embezzled from Manafort. 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.
In other testimony, Gates recounted how he falsified documents for Manafort, including converting a PDF of a profit-and-loss statement to a Microsoft Word document so he could doctor it to inflate the business' income.
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 chose to boost his boss' personal income over a period of several years.
"No, I did not", Gates responded.
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Defense lawyer Kevin Downing began his cross-examination of Gates on Tuesday, accusing Gates of being immersed in "so many lies" he can't remember them all and demanded to know how a jury could possibly trust him. "I already admitted on the record that I took unauthorised funds from Mr Manafort".
The questioning of Paul Manafort's protege during the political consultant's financial fraud trial has turned confrontational and personal, focusing on Rick Gates' own crimes as well as an extramarital affair and a plea agreement.
The prosecution produced an undated email exchange between Mr Manafort and Mr Gates which outlines the amount of tax the campaign chief might have to pay.
His actions came under scrutiny as part of the broader investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election run by Mueller.
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. Trump often boasts that he hires "the best people", and the sixth day of the trial showcased two people who worked for him, one who allegedly tried to use his influence in Trump's circle to boost someone he had a sketchy financial relationship with, and another who admitted under oath that he may have stolen money from Trump's inaugural committee.
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While Gates and others have pleaded guilty, Manafort has refused to strike a deal and legal experts say he may be holding out hopes of a pardon from Trump.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has made headlines in recent days for his clashes with the prosecutors, including pressing them on the speed and merits of the prosecution and suggesting one prosecutor was so discouraged he was crying in the courtroom.
"Mr Downing, I've made many mistakes over many years", said Gates, before being cut off by the judge, who snapped: "This isn't the time for that". He told jurors he embezzled from Manafort by filing false expense reports. But Trump has shown interest in the proceedings, tweeting support for Manafort.
Manafort was chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and his longtime deputy was part of the campaign, too.
"He always had control over the accounts", Gates said of Manafort, and the income was not reported to his bookkeepers, his accountants or the USA tax authorities.
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"In Cyprus, they were documented as loans". However, Gates also said the agents did not ask about tax returns and "the majority of the Cypriot accounts were closed" at the stage. Cindy Laporta, one of the accountants, also testified that Manafort and Gates had used phony loan documents to improperly reduce Manafort's income and lower his tax bill. "You told me you were on top of this", he wrote Gates in April 2015.