Manafort team attacks 'secret life' of star witness Rick Gates

Manafort in court in FebruaryImage copyright
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Manafort entering court in February (FILE)

Lawyers for ex-Trump aide Paul Manafort have told a court that his deputy led a “secret life” and told so many lies he could not keep track of them all.

Mr Manafort’s defence team is cross-examining his former right hand man, Rick Gates, who is now star witness for the prosecution.

Gates told the court on Monday that Mr Manafort ordered him to commit fraud.

This is the first criminal trial to come from the Department of Justice-led inquiry into alleged Russian meddling.

Kevin Downing, Mr Manafort’s defence attorney, began his line of questioning on day six of the trial by asking about Gates’ co-operation with special counsel Robert Mueller.

“When did you start providing false and misleading information to the special counsel’s office?” he began, pointing to the fact that Gates had lied to investigators before entering his guilty plea.

“Have they confronted you with so many lies that you can’t remember?” he added.

The two former business partners were indicted last October for hiding millions of dollars they made lobbying for Russian-backed Ukrainian politicians.

Mr Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud and tax fraud relating to their political consulting, which predated the Trump 2016 campaign they worked on together.

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But Gates, 46, struck a plea deal with prosecutors in February, admitting two charges of conspiracy and lying to the FBI.

Mr Manafort’s defence team set about attacking Gates’ credibility on Tuesday.

In the middle of questioning, Mr Downing asked: “There was another Richard Gates, isn’t that right? A secret Richard Gates?”

Gates responded that he had had an extramarital affair over ten years ago.

“As part of your secret life, did you have a flat?” Mr Downing asked. “Is that what they call an apartment in London ?”

Gates acknowledged he had maintained a place in London for two months, and claiming luxury hotels as a business expense during the relationship.

According to reporters in the court, Gates has not made eye contact with Mr Manafort during his two days of testimony.

Prosecutors provided emails on Tuesday between Mr Manafort and Gates which appeared to show that the two had moved money through a foreign bank account in Cyprus.

One text exchange drew some laughter from the courtroom, when one message revealed Mr Manafort’s dismay at his high tax rate.

Mr Manafort wrote: “How could I be blindsided like this? You told me you were on top of this. We need to discuss options. This is a disaster.”

The witness told the Alexandria, Virginia, court on Monday that he was helping prosecutors in the hope of leniency.

Gates – who still faces up to six years in prison under the terms of his plea deal – said Mr Manafort had directed him to commit bank and tax fraud.

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