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World Protégé testifies of lies and fraud with Manafort

Years later Gates went to work for him, rising to become right hand man to Manafort, once a powerful force in Republican politics who more recently had turned his sights to lucrative opportunities abroad.

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Protégé testifies of lies and fraud with Manafort play

Protégé testifies of lies and fraud with Manafort

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Rick Gates was just an intern when he first crossed paths with Paul Manafort.

Years later Gates went to work for him, rising to become right hand man to Manafort, once a powerful force in Republican politics who more recently had turned his sights to lucrative opportunities abroad.

On Monday, Gates was Manafort’s ultimate nemesis, the prosecution’s star witness in Manafort’s trial on tax and bank fraud charges stemming from work they did together for pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine.

At a time when the investigation into President Donald Trump and Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign has left Washington in a state of constant drama, it was a moment of particular pathos. There was the protégé, having turned against his mentor and agreed to a plea deal, starting to give his account of how the two of them laundered their income. A few feet away was his former boss, flanked by five lawyers waiting to shred Gates’ character.

Gates, somber-faced on the witness stand, never glanced at Manafort, who glared in his direction. Asked by prosecutors whether he was involved in any criminal activity with Manafort, Gates responded, “Yes.”

He acknowledged his own extensive wrongdoing. Then, speaking rapidly, he testified that he knew about what the prosecutors allege is a multiyear tax and bank fraud scheme by Manafort because “I was the one who helped organize the paperwork.”

Manafort controlled secret foreign bank accounts in the names of 15 shell companies, he said. He helped conceal them, he testified, “at Mr. Manafort’s direction.”

The case is being closely watched as the first test of the ability of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to win a courtroom conviction, and because both Manafort and Gates held top posts on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Its outcome may well depend on what the jury makes of Gates, who continued to be associated with the campaign — and later, was named deputy chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee — after Manafort was forced off the campaign amid a swirl of reports about the nature of his work in Ukraine.

Manafort’s allies argue that Gates can be discredited as a morally bankrupt and untrustworthy narrator who owes his professional career to Manafort, yet siphoned millions from his accounts. Then, faced with the prospect of prison and huge fines, Manafort’s allies say, he blamed Manafort for financial machinations that he himself executed.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Sharon LaFraniere and Kenneth P. Vogel © 2018 The New York Times

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