A key witness in the trial of political lobbyist Paul Manafort turned up to court on Aug. 6 to testify against his former business partner.
The witness, Richard Gates, previously pleaded guilty to making false statements and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, who charged Manafort with bank and tax fraud. The charges are unrelated to the Trump presidential campaign, which Manafort briefly worked for in 2016.
Gates, who seconded Manafort in the Trump campaign, is a crucial witness for prosecutors after U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis said on Aug. 2 that conspiracy charges against Manafort could fall apart without Gates taking the stand.
Defense lawyers have painted Gates as an untrustworthy business partner who embezzled funds from Manafort’s consulting firm.
Manafort has been charged by the team of special counsel Robert Mueller in two separate lawsuits, in October and in February. He is accused of hiding from authorities millions of dollars in payments from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, dodging taxes in the process. He also allegedly lied to banks about his income to get better loans, lied to investigators, and failed to register as a foreign agent.
Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and served as the campaign manager from June to August that year. He stepped down after his work in Ukraine was revealed.
Manafort’s lawyers previously said the charges against him are politically motivated, as his activities have been known to authorities for years but he was prosecuted only after he worked with the Trump campaign.
Mueller took over a previous FBI counterintelligence probe into Russian meddling with American elections and allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. He was also authorized to investigate anything that arose from the Russia probe.
Ellis previously questioned how removed the charges against Manafort are from the alleged Russian interference. A similar concern was raised by Trump.
“Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!” Trump said in an Aug. 1 tweet.
Reuters contributed to this report.
The 610 Office
For nearly 18 years, the “610 Office” has been responsible for the mass surveillance, arrest, detention, and torture of millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China.