Paul Manafort's former business partner, Rick Gates, took the witness stand on Monday for what may be the most critical testimony in Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial.
"Did you commit crimes with Mr. Manafort?" a prosecutor asked Gates.
Gates was Manafort's right-hand man during the pair's lobbying work in Ukraine.
Gates already pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy against the United States and another count of making false statements to federal investigators. One came after a September 15, 2015, conference call in which Gates balked at the amount of taxes that Manafort's political consulting firm owed for 2014.
Manafort's defense hinges on convincing a jury that it was Gates, not Manafort, who committed all of these crimes, and that Manafort is a victim of Gates. 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.
"This is typically the most important testimony that a "flipper" can give prosecutors - an admission that they committed crimes along with the defendant, along with an explanation of how they did it", Mariotti tweeted on Monday.
Ahead of Manafort's trial, Mueller's prosecutors listed Gates as a potential witness, indicating that he was expected to play a central role in the prosecutor's case against his former boss.
PHOTO: Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington.
Manafort's defense has sought to blame Gates for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars.
Prosecutors have introduced a bevy of exhibits and are in the process of calling several witnesses as part of their effort to paint Manafort as a tax scofflaw who failed to report money spent on luxury items - then lied to get bank loans when his foreign consulting work dried up.
But she said she was under the impression that Mr Manafort had been directing his deputies' actions and "knew what was going on".
In court on Monday, Gates testified that he did steal from Manafort. During that process, Gates admitted to two felony charges, but when he testifies it will be the first time he'll detail those crimes face-to-face with his former boss and mentor. It's the first of Mueller's prosecutions to reach a jury, but lawyers have made no mention of President Donald Trump or possible campaign coordination with the Kremlin.
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