Rick Gates walked away from the witness stand Wednesday with the rest of the world newly privy to the specifics of how he went behind the backs of the government, his longtime boss, and his family to support a so-called secret life.
In all the star witness in the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of political consulting guru and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, answered questions for more than 10 hours spanning three days from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecutors and Manafort’s lead defense attorney, Kevin Downing.
Prosecutors needed Gates to testify so they could introduce evidence that showed Manafort authorized foreign wire transfers from accounts he did not report on his tax returns and fudged the numbers on a profit and loss statement in order to secure a bank loan, among other dealings.
Gates pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of lying to an FBI agent in exchange for testifying against his former boss.
Manafort, the high-powered political consultant, is facing 18 counts and a maximum 305-year prison sentence if the Eastern Virginia jury finds him guilty.
The defense hacked away at Gates’ credibility as a witness by painting him as a pathological liar.
“After all the lies you’ve told and fraud you’ve committed, you expect this jury to believe you?” Downing asked Gates Tuesday.
Over the course of the last three days, Gates copped to at least one affair with a woman that took place in London roughly a decade ago and lasted for about five months.
On Wednesday, Downing indicated Gates had “actually engaged in four extramarital affairs.” Downing backed down from that line of questioning after prosecutors objected.
Gates has a wife and four children, he testified Monday.
Downing asked Gates on Tuesday and again on Wednesday to parse a list of transactions worth roughly $3 million from 2010 to 2014 that the defense claims Gates embezzled from Manafort.
Gates only admitted that some of the items on the list were “unauthorized transactions” — but that he could not declare with certainty without descriptions of the expenses.
In one heated exchange Tuesday, Downing tried to press Gates into explicitly saying he had embezzled money from Manafort. Gates offered that he had been the recipient of an “unauthorized transaction.”
“Why won’t you say it?” Downing asked
“What difference does it make?” Gates said.
After a few more seconds of cross-talk, Gates faced the jury.
“It was an embezzlement from Mr. Manafort,” he said.
His dodgy comments about the transactions reflected a broader trend during his cross-examination, when he often claimed he could not recall specifics from possibly illicit financial dealings unless Downing provided documents of his past comments to Mueller’s team.
Gates was the 15th of 35 potential witnesses the prosecution could call.
U.S. Attorney Greg Andres has said the prosecution could finish presenting evidence and calling witnesses as early as the end of this week. Mueller's team does not plan to call every witness.
An FBI forensic accountant will testify next for the prosecution.