The courtroom showdown between Paul Manafort and his former right hand man Rick Gates grew painfully personal Tuesday as a defense lawyer forced Gates, the prosecution’s star witness, to admit he embezzled money years ago to fund a transatlantic extramarital affair.
In his second day on the witness stand in Alexandria, Va., federal court, Gates described in detail the lies, phony documents, and fake profits he said he cooked up at Manafort’s direction. Manafort, seated at the defense table, stared intently at Gates, who has assiduously avoided his gaze.
Gates’ testimony is a central part of the prosecutors’ case as they try to prove Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, committed bank fraud and tax crimes.
He testified that most of his crimes were committed on behalf of his former boss, while others he did for himself. Gates pleaded guilty in February as part of a deal with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
As the first trial to emerge out of the special counsel investigation, the Manafort case is a critical public test of Mueller’s work. His team of prosecutors and agents continue to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts.
The most jarring testimony Tuesday came when Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing got his turn to question Gates.
“There was another Richard Gates, isn’t that right? A secret Richard Gates?” Downing asked.
Gates, who seemed to immediately understand the lawyer’s hint, began speaking in a quiet, strained voice, saying that about 10 years ago, he had “another relationship” — an extramarital affair.
Asked if that affair had taken place in London, Gates said it had occurred there and other places. For around two months, Gates said, he had kept a separate apartment in London. Under questioning, he admitted he had also flown first class and stayed in luxury hotels as part of that relationship.
Gates also testified that he had used money embezzled from Manafort to help fund his relationship. When Downing asked if he had spent as much as $3 million on his affair, Gates replied that he thought the figure was lower, but agreed that he had taken money from Manafort without his permission.