Paul Manafort trial day 8: Prosecutors expect to wrap up case soon

Larry Hoffman
August 10, 2018

Defence attorneys for Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort, on trial for tax and bank fraud, attacked the credibility of the key prosecution witness as he wrapped up three days of gruelling testimony on Wednesday (Aug 8).

Defence lawyers saw an opening to undermine his testimony by painting him as liar and a philanderer, getting him to admit to an extramarital affair and reminding jurors how he had lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's team while working out a plea deal for himself. The crimes Manafort allegedly committed do not have bearing on that central question, but they were uncovered in the course of the special counsel investigation; this is the first trial resulting from Mueller's probe. And the witness never did.

"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".

The evidence could be crucial for prosecutors who seek to prove that Manafort controlled foreign accounts that lay at the heart of tax charges against him.

So far, 18 witnesses have testified in the former Trump campaign chairman's trial.

Ellis has said he did not like having witnesses listen to the proceedings before they take the stand but the prosecution had previously requested case agents and experts be allowed.

Mr Gates, who faced a bruising cross-examination, returned to the witness stand yesterday for additional questioning from a Manafort lawyer who accused the government's star witness of being immersed in "so many lies " he can't even remember them all.

"I've acknowledged there was a period where I had another relationship", said Gates, who is married.

On Tuesday, Downing straight out asked Gates: "After all the lies you've told and fraud you've committed, you expect this jury to believe you?"

The topic came up as Kevin Downing, Manafort's defense attorney, hammered away at Gates' admitted habit of filing doctored expense reports in an attempt to paint Gates as self-motivated and untrustworthy.

Gates testified that Manafort asked him to float Calk, who was on Trump's economic advisory council, for Secretary of the Army.

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.

"I'm here to tell the truth", Gates replied.

Lawyers for Mr Manafort are determined to impugn the credibility of Mr Gates.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said that judges should be patient but "they made a mistake" when the Senate confirmed him to the bench.

On re-direct from the prosecution, Magionos agreed that two of Manafort's signatures on the same foreign bank document appeared different - implying that he didn't always sign his name the same way.

Gates struck a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller in February, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "I'm not very patient, so don't try my patience", Ellis said.

Gates answered: "I don't recall".

But in reality, Manafort rented out the Howard Street loft on Airbnb for more than a year - as an "Amazing full floor loft in SoHo" - and still had a mortgage on the Brooklyn brownstone, James said.

In December 2016, Manafort sent an "urgent" email to Gates including Calk and Calk's son on a list of people Manafort wanted to receive invitations to Trump's inauguration.

The prosecution has put forward almost 20 witnesses - including Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates - and a trove of documentary evidence as they've sought to prove Manafort defrauded banks and concealed millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts from the IRS.

"Generally, when a person's testimony is corroborated by objective evidence - whether that be a recording, a document, or something else - it makes it hard to attack that by just attacking the witness's credibility", a former USA attorney with experience prosecuting similar fraud cases said.

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