Star witness Rick Gates to testify for third day in Manafort trial

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Gates said that Manafort asked him to meet with one of the Ukrainian businessmen involved in paying him millions of dollars to find out if one of the shell companies used to pay him was a "clean entity". Downing asked Gates Tuesday, a rhetorical question everyone present at the trial with any courtroom experience saw coming a mile away. Afterward, Downing dropped the Trump-related line of questioning, moving on to other topics without explanation.

Even before Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie was sworn in July 30, he discovered what his predecessor, David Shulkin, had known: The real power at the VA resides at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's private club in Florida, wielded by a triumvirate of Mar-a-Lago members led by Ike Perlmutter, the nearly comically reclusive CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac Arnsdorf reports at ProPublica. He told jurors how he disguised millions of dollars in foreign income as loans in order to lower Manafort's tax bill. Prosecutors allege Manafort used various ways to hide his income, including wiring money from Ukraine to the United States via a bank in Cyprus and listing it as a loan, and laundering almost $1 million through the purchases of Oriental rugs.

Downing followed up: "Do you remember telling the office of the special counsel you actually engaged in four extramarital affairs?"

Downing summed up his questioning by asking Gates: "After all these lies, and the fraud you have committed, you expect this jury to believe you?"

Gates, 46, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is cooperating with the government as it prosecutes Manafort for allegedly evading USA taxes on tens of millions of dollars earned from political consulting work they did together in Ukraine from 2006 to 2014. They have tried several times to impugn his credibility before the jury.

Gates, meanwhile, wearing dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie, cut a lonely figure at the witness stand, blinking hard.

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Gates added that Manafort also wanted to give the businessman a heads-up about the FBI's interest in the offshore accounts as part of the US government's efforts to recover assets stolen under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Gates said he was responsible for collecting all relevant documents for the loan applications.

"It actually kind of shows in real time the course of months of investigation where they painstakingly did a jigsaw puzzle of records", former USA prosecutor Harry Litman said of Magionos' testimony.

Prosecutors summoned Gates, described by witnesses as Manafort's "right-hand man, " 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. The email exchange occurred after Manafort left the Trump campaign but while Gates was active on the Trump inauguration committee.

In an email shown to the jury, Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, wrote to Gates on November 24, 2016, "We need to discuss Steve Calk for Sec of Army". And the fact that after loaning Manafort millions of dollars Calk became an economic adviser to Trump casts doubt on Trump's famous pledge to "drain the swamp" and puncture the rampant influence peddling in Washington.

Neither were charged in connection with their Trump campaign work.

Wednesday's drama comes after Gates spent large chunks of Monday and Tuesday on the stand detailing a long list of crimes he and Manafort committed, sometimes together, sometimes separately. Trump often boasts that he hires "the best people", and the sixth day of the trial showcased two people who worked for him, one who allegedly tried to use his influence in Trump's circle to boost someone he had a sketchy financial relationship with, and another who admitted under oath that he may have stolen money from Trump's inaugural committee.

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Bankers and others familiar with Manafort's real estate portfolio and debts are poised to recount that he lied to get mortgages.

Cindy Laporta testified Friday in the government's case against the former Trump campaign chairman, saying she went along with the scam because she was anxious Manafort and his right-hand-man Rick Gates would sue.

Kevin Downing, Manafort's lead defense attorney, sought to undermine Gates' credibility in the eyes of the jury on Tuesday, pressing him about embezzling money from Manafort and an extramarital affair.

While Gates and others have pleaded guilty, Manafort has refused to strike a deal and legal experts say he may be holding out hopes of a pardon from Trump.

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.

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