Rick Gates Tells Court He Committed Crimes While Working For Manafort

Rick Gates on Monday took the stand in the federal fraud case against his former business partner, ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, testifying that he committed crimes while working for Manafort.

Federal prosecutor Greg Andres asked witness Gates:

“Were you involved in criminal activity when you worked for Paul Manafort?”

“Yes,” Gates replied.

“Did you commit a crime?” Andres asked.

“Yes,” Gates said.

Gates, the prosecution’s star witness against Manafort in his criminal trials, had entered into a plea deal with prosecutors months ago. Under the terms of this deal he has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case and provide testimony against his former business partner.

The federal judge in Manafort’s trial, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, told the prosecution team last week in court that in his opinion (which is important) they “can’t prove conspiracy” in the case unless prosecutors call Gates to the stand. Obviously Ellis believes that testimony from Gates is extremely important if the prosecutors are to prove the charges they have brought against Trump’s former campaign chairman.

Judge Ellis issued his warning in a back-and-forth exchange with the prosecutors after they had suggested the possibility that Gates might not be called to the stand after all, which came as a complete shock.

Manafort is facing multiple charges of bank and tax fraud related to his work in Ukraine where he was reportedly paid $60 million for his political consulting on behalf of a Putin crony. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, which has been a surprise since the evidence against him is overwhelming and most people expected him to “flip” like Gates and cooperate with Mueller in his case against Donald Trump and his family.

Manafort’s defense team said during opening arguments last week that their plan is to paint their client as a victim, and to blame Gates for the alleged crimes.  

Gates was Manafort’s right-hand man for over 10 years and they worked closely together on a day-to-day basis in the Ukraine. He was the person who often handled day-to-day business for Manafort, and thus knows about the financial crimes and reporting deficiencies Manafort has been charged with.

“Rick Gates had his hand in the cookie jar and couldn’t let his boss find out,” Manafort defense attorney Thomas Zehnle told the jury while presenting his opening arguments. But few legal observers expect this defense strategy to work for Manafort, and multiple convictions are expected.