Star witness to take stand for second day in Manafort trial

Star witness to take stand for second day in Manafort trial

In this November 6, 2017 photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington.Gates told jurors that he siphoned off the money without Manafort’s knowledge by filing false expense reports.

Gates, who is cooperating with prosecutors in the trial of Trump's former campaign chairman, testified that Manafort directed him to report overseas income as loans in order to lower his taxable income. The current federal trial in the Eastern District of Virginia is based on alleged tax and bank fraud, while next month's Washington, D.C. trial deals with allegations of conspiracy, money laundering, and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, said, however, that Gates' testimony will be key for the jury and their deliberations.

Accountant Cindy LaPorta - who was granted immunity from prosecution - said on Friday she suspected that Gates was misleading her about Mr Manafort's finances.

Gates admitted on Monday that he did steal money through inflated expense reports, but he said it was hundreds of thousands of dollars, not millions as defense lawyers stated.

"Were you involved in criminal activity when you worked for Paul Manafort?" federal prosecutor Greg Andres asked the witness.

Those admissions are likely to become a focal point for Mr Manafort's defense team when he is cross examined today.

President Donald Trump calls the investigation a political "witch hunt", and has argued Mr Manafort is being treated worse than Al Capone.

Andres sought to establish Gates' credibility as a witness by outlining his plea agreement with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation and the protections he would forfeit if he lied during his testimony.

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Prosecutors allege he dodged taxes on millions of dollars he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party.

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.

His testimony is scheduled to continue on Tuesday. Similar to prior witnesses, Laporta testified that Gates and Manafort were in lockstep but that Manafort was in charge. Kerik, on the other hand, isn't putting any weight on Gates' words because of his motivation for testifying.

But Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Manafort, legal experts said.

Manafort, 69, meanwhile, is facing 18 felony charges that could carry a maximum of 30 years in prison.

When the trial broke for lunch Tuesday, Manafort looked back at his wife, sitting in the front row, smiled and winked at her, followed by a quick shake of his head, seeming to indicate he was unfazed or unbothered by the morning's testimony.

And if Manafort did indeed open those accounts, that inherently means he knew they existed - and that he failed to report them to his tax preparers.

Laporta thought that was odd, so she asked Gates for information about the $2.4 million Manafort was supposedly owed.

On redirect, prosecutor Uzo Asonye used a spreadsheet to show that Manafort's firm had earned $31 million in gross receipts between 2010 and 2014 - half the amount prosecutors say he netted during the same time frame in Ukraine.

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