Rick Gates, the key witness in the trial of Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort, described in detail today how he helped his ex-boss evade US taxes on millons of dollars for political consulting work done in Ukraine.
Gates, 46, Manafort's long-time business party, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in February and is cooperating with the government in exchange for a more lenient prison sentence.
Trump's name has not come up in the court proceedings although Gates did say Tuesday that Manafort had gone to work for a "presidential campaign" in 2016 and that he had joined him.
Trump's name was not specifically mentioned.
"He always had control over the accounts," Gates said, referring to Manafort.
At Manafort's direction, the income was not reported to his bookeepers or accountants, he added.
Gates also told the court that Manafort would frequently pay for clothing, landscaping and other personal expenses using wire transfers directly from the accounts in Cyprus and others in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Gates also acknowledged making "unauthorized payments" to himself from the Grenadines accounts.
On Monday, he said the payments -- which he billed as personal expenses -- amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Gates also said that when their work in Ukraine dried up in 2015 Manafort had difficulty paying his bills and had no other clients at that time.
He also said Manafort had asked him to disguise income as loans. "The idea of exchanging income for loans reduced his overall tax liability," he said.
Like he did on Monday, Gates addressed his attention to prosecutors and the judge and studiously avoided the gaze of his longtime business partner Manafort at the defense table. Gates is expected to be cross-examined by defense attorneys later Tuesday who will attempt to chip away at his credibility.
Manafort, who helped Republicans Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan reach the White House, was Trump's campaign chairman from May to August 2016, when he was forced to step down amid questions about his lobbying work for Ukraine's former pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych.
Gates worked for Manafort from 2006 to 2016 and was the deputy chairman of Trump's presidential election campaign team under Manafort. Mueller, a former FBI director, has indicted more than 30 people -- including 26 Russians -- in connection with his probe into whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to help get the real estate tycoon elected.
While Gates and others have pleaded guilty, Manafort has refused to strike a deal.
Legal experts say Manafort may be holding out hopes of a pardon from Trump.
Manafort is scheduled to go on trial in September on separate charges brought by Mueller of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to register as an agent of a foreign government.
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