Manafort trial: Star witness testifies against ex-Trump aide

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Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump, testified on Monday at his former business partner Paul Manafort's tax and bank fraud trial that he assisted Manafort in filing false tax returns. At some point this week, Manafort's former right-hand man, Rick Gates, is expected to take the witness stand.

Manafort is on trial here facing bank and tax fraud charges.

Some of the maneuvers were at the request of Gates, while others implicated Manafort, Laporta testified.

Downing will probably focus on Laporta's interactions with Gates, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller.

Attorneys representing Manafort have built their defense argument around Gates, painting him as the true culprit behind their client's alleged crimes and asserting that Manafort's only mistake was "placing his trust in the wrong person", referring to Gates.

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In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked the accountant about a $10 million loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006.

Gates is the prosecution's star witness after he cut a plea deal this year and admitted two felony charges.

"Rick said it was too high, he didn't have that money", Laporta said. Having initially been charged alongside Manafort, Gates has since cooperated with the special counsel as part of their investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign.

But Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Manafort, legal experts said. Prosecutors were expected to ask Gates for an inside look at what they say was a scheme by Manafort to use offshore bank accounts, shell companies and wire transfers as to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax bills. Laporta said she didn't believe the loan had actually been forgiven.

His testimony is important for prosecutors: The federal judge in the trial, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, said in court last week they "can't prove conspiracy" in the case unless prosecutors call Gates to the stand. Ellis issued that warning after prosecutors suggested Gates might not be called to the stand after all.

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