Former Trump campaign chief’s deputy takes stand in his fraud trial
Rick Gates, the prosecution's star witness in the trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort, testified Monday that he conspired with his ex-boss to hide millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts from US tax authorities.In riveting testimony before a packed courtroom, the 46-year-old also admitted to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort during the decade the pair worked together as political consultants. Gates, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in February and is cooperating with the government in exchange for a more lenient prison sentence, took the stand on the fifth day of Manafort's trial on tax and bank fraud charges in Alexandria, Virginia. Wearing a dark blue suit and a gold tie, Gates addressed his attention to prosecutors and the judge and studiously avoided the gaze of his longtime business partner Manafort at the defense table. Manafort, 69, is the first defendant to go to court to fight charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But the veteran Republican operative is not on trial for anything he did while serving for three months as the chairman of Trump's presidential campaign. Instead, Manafort is answering to alleged crimes related to money he made proving political consulting services to the former Russian-backed government of Ukraine. Prosecutors accuse Manafort of failing to report income from his work in Ukraine to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Gates testified that he was a willing participant in the scheme. Gates replied "yes" when asked by prosecutor Greg Andres if he had engaged in criminal activities with Manafort, who he described as a "brilliant" political strategist. He said he had assisted Manafort in filing false tax returns and hiding the existence of 15 foreign bank accounts, mostly in Cyprus. "At Mr Manafort's request, we did not report the foreign bank accounts," Gates said. He said the amounts in question were "several million dollars" over the years the pair spent working for political campaigns in Ukraine. Gates also acknowledged stealing "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from Manafort by filing bogus expense reports.