Sunday, 19 August, 2018

Judge backs off comments to prosecutors in ex-Trump aide Manafort's trial

Paul Manafort's associate says 'hundreds' of emails prove former Trump campaign chief directed fraud ‘Secret life’: Rick Gates forced to reveal affair at Manafort trial
Kenny Thornton | 10 August, 2018, 05:45

Downing also asked whether Mueller's investigators had interviewed Gates about his role in the campaign, prompting an objection from prosecutors and a sidebar conference with U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Bank records were put on display during the eighth day of the trial. He was aware that Manafort was acting as an unregistered foreign agent in lobbying for Ukraine, he said.

"I'm sorry, judge, I was", the prosecutor replied.

A court filing was submitted on Thursday to remind Ellis that he previously allowed Welch to attend the trial, and the prosecution team also asked him to tell the jury he was wrong to accuse the government of improper conduct.

The remaining witnesses include bankers and others familiar with Manafort's real estate portfolio and debts, and they're expected to dive into the gritty details of the prosecution's case on bank and mortgage fraud.

Manafort and Gates hid the fact that one property had a mortgage against it and falsely claimed that another property was a second residence for Manafort and his daughter, James said.

Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor, said that in Downing's remaining hour of cross-examination on Wednesday, he needs to keep painting Gates as an unreliable person who can not be trusted.

Manafort's conviction would undermine efforts by Trump and some Republican lawmakers to paint Mueller's inquiry as a political witch hunt, while an acquittal would be a setback for Mueller.

Paul Manafort hid more than 30 offshore accounts in three types of currencies from the IRS, according to an Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant testifying in the former Trump campaign chairman's trial. It's a practice he has admitted to doing to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort, and under pressure from Downing, he agreed that it could be called embezzlement.

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.

"This jury is just supposed to believe you after all the lies that you've told and the fraud you've committed?" asked Downing.

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In a final back and forth between lawyers over Gates's credibility, the focus turned to his decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which Manafort's defence have portrayed as an attempt to save his own skin. "But Mr. Manafort was a longtime client of the firm, and I didn't think I should do that".

Neither man was charged in connection with their Trump campaign work, but the trial has nonetheless been a distraction for a president who insists Manafort was treated shabbily and who continues to publicly fume about Mueller's investigation into potential ties between his associates and the Kremlin. "When I exclude witnesses I mean everybody, unless I make a special exception".

"He always had control over the accounts", Gates said of Manafort, and the income was not reported to his bookkeepers, his accountants or the United States tax authorities.

After Mr Gates described his theft as "unauthorised transactions" instead of embezzlement, Mr Downing prodded him to use the latter term - and Mr Gates ultimately relented, saying: "It was embezzlement from Mr Manafort".

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. Manafort's lawyers on Wednesday tried to further malign Gates as a witness by suggesting Gates lied about the number of extramarital affairs he's had.

Prosecutors summoned Gates to give jurors the first-hand account of a co-conspirator they say helped Manafort carry out an elaborate offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud scheme.

But that changed Tuesday during a full day of testimony by Rick Gates, the prosecution's star witness and another former member of the campaign.

Ellis had repeatedly chided prosecutors, both in front of the jury and out of their hearing, during the trial.

Manafort, who helped Republicans Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan reach the White House, was Mr Trump's campaign chairman from May to August 2016.

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