Manafort trial: Star witness testifies against ex-Trump aide

Manafort trial: Star witness testifies against ex-Trump aide

Gates and Manafort purposely lied to Manafort's accountants, telling them he had no foreign accounts or interests, Gates said.

Ellis said all that's relevant is that Manafort was paid and whether he hid the income from the IRS.

Gates also reportedly told the court on Monday that he had been told by Mr Manafort not to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Manafort's lawyers doubled down Monday on their main line of defense: that Manafort placed too much trust in Gates, who abused that trust by putting Manafort's money in legally compromising environs and embezzled gobs of cash from him.

Gates did not make eye contact with Manafort as he took the stand wearing a yellow tie and navy blue suit.

On the witness stand Monday, Gates spoke about how he broke the law with Manafort, including by providing false and doctored documents to banks in an effort to inflate Manafort's income to qualify him for loans.

Those admissions are likely to become a focal point for Manafort's defence team when he is cross examined on Tuesday. With an enormous salary serving his expensive lifestyle (earlier in Manafort's trial, we learned about his taste for ostrich jackets), Manafort had a pretty good racket going on, until he plunged into debt and made the fateful decision to run President Trump's long-shot campaign in 2016.

Mr Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials in the election campaign, but the charges against Mr Manafort do not address that.

Gates said an associate, Konstantin Klimnik, had control over the overseas accounts.

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But the prosecution's witnesses have also testified that they generally believed that Gates was carrying out Manafort's wishes when he gave false information to Manafort's accountants. Klimnik is a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant who was indicted in June on charges stemming from the Mueller probe.

"Were you involved in any criminal activity with Mr. Manafort?" a prosecutor on special counsel Robert Mueller's team asked Gates, the key witness in the charges brought against Manafort.

In his testimony, Gates said, "I was the one who helped organize the paperwork". Gates was copied in on Manafort's emails, attended events in Manafort's place and generally carried out his boss' wishes.

After Manafort left the campaign in August 2016 amid swirling questions about his Ukraine work, Gates stayed on the campaign and later helped found pro-Trump advocacy group, before he was ultimately forced out, too, as questions mounted about Manafort.

"A lot of these loan agreements are backdated", Gates said.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis repeatedly clashed with prosecutors about the relevance of such testimony and once again urged them to speed things along.

Gates is expected to testify for several hours Tuesday and then face a bruising cross-examination as defence lawyers try to undercut his credibility and pin the blame on him.

Though the names of those companies appeared on wire transfers and at times on his bookkeeper's ledger, both Manafort's accountants and his bookkeeper say they never knew that the companies - and corresponding offshore bank accounts - were controlled by Manafort. Laporta testified that she saw no evidence that the loan was ever repaid.

All told, prosecutors allege that Manafort failed to report a "significant percentage" of the more than $60 million they say he received from Ukrainian oligarchs.

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