During the first week of the Paul Manafort trial, there were two stars: A $15,000 ostrich jacket (produced by prosecutors who claim Manafort deceived the government about his income) and witness Rick Gates, who cut an immunity deal in exchange for testimony against Manafort. Gates made a number of eyebrow-raising statements on the stand, but he might not be the slam-dunk witness the prosecution thought they had.
Who is Rick Gates?
Rick Gates is a former business associate of onetime Trump presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort. Gates and Manafort worked together as consultants for years, including the period in which Manafort was paid $60 million by a Russian oligarch to advance Russia's interests in Ukraine.
Gates served as the deputy chairman of the Donald Trump Inauguration Committee and co-founded the pro-Trump nonprofit group America First Policies.
In October 2017, Gates was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller and charged with money laundering, making false statements to the FBI and conspiracy against the United States, among other charges. On Feb. 22, 2018, Mueller indicted Gates and Manafort for a rash of additional crimes, including filing false income tax returns and bank fraud. On Feb. 23, Gates pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements and one count of conspiracy against the U.S. in exchange for his cooperation with the Mueller investigation.
What Rick Gates said at the Manafort trial
On the stand this week, Gates said that he and Manafort had committed tax evasion and bank fraud together and that he had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort. He also said he had engaged in an extramarital affair and that some of the embezzled money funded it.
On cross-examination, Manafort's attorney called Gates's credibility into question, claiming he had actually embezzled millions from Manafort and causing him to admit he had actually had a second extramarital affair he hadn't told the government about.
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Analysts were split about Gates's effectiveness as a witness for the prosecution. Some thought Gates did well; others said jurors seemed displeased with Gates during the cross-examination and that he might be a liability for the government's case (which is nevertheless backed up by extensive financial documents).