Napolitano: Judge in Manafort Trial Showing an 'Extraordinary Bias' Against the Government

10 August, 2018, 05:46 | Author: Diane Mills
  • Rick Gates is seen on the witness stand as a message between he and his former boss Paul Manafort appears before the court during Manafort's trial in Virginia. Courtroom illustration courtesy of Bill Hennessy

The judge overseeing the prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort opened Thursday's session with an apology of sorts, saying he'd been out of line in blasting the government's lawyers.

Paul Manafort's former business partner, Rick Gates, is on the stand for the third straight day in Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial as prosecutors and defense lawyers wage their battle over Gates' credibility.

The rare apology by U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis surprised observers in his Alexandria, Virginia courtroom, who have watched the judge repeatedly criticise the government's handling of the case while giving leeway to Manafort's lawyers.

"I'm here to tell the truth". "I'm not very patient, so don't try my patience", Ellis said.

The questioning is part of the Manafort defense strategy of presenting Gates to the jury as someone who lies and can not be trusted. Melinda James, a Citizens Bank mortgage loan assistant, testified that Manafort had told the bank that the property would be used as a second residence, but she found it listed as a rental on a real estate website.

"I think he has to keep hammering at the point that Gates is not a credible witness and he can't be believed", he said. Gates said the money in these accounts was earned from Manafort's political campaign work. And the fact that after loaning Manafort millions of dollars Calk became an economic adviser to Trump casts doubt on Trump's famous pledge to "drain the swamp" and puncture the rampant influence peddling in Washington.

Gates, who is awaiting sentencing, told jurors that he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort by filing false expense reports.

As well as being a senior aide on Trump's election campaign, Gates served as the deputy chairman of the U.S. president's inaugural committee. Downing asked Gates Tuesday, a rhetorical question everyone present at the trial with any courtroom experience saw coming a mile away.

More broadly, this trial is a direct result of the special counsel's investigation into the Trump's campaign contacts with Russian Federation.

The aggressive questioning was aimed at shifting blame from Mr Manafort onto Mr Gates, who pleaded guilty in Mr Mueller's investigation and agreed to co-operate with investigators by testifying in the financial fraud trial.

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Prosecutor Greg Andres pointed out he had created a "loan forgiveness letter between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Manafort".

Manafort, 69, a veteran Republican political operative, was Trump's campaign chairman from May to August 2016, when he was forced to step down amid questions about his work for Ukraine's former pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych. He said there were 15 secret accounts.

"I may have made a mistake".

He has already admitted embezzling some funds from Manafort.

The judge's comments come after prosecutors said in a written filing that Ellis had authorized Welch to watch the trial and the reprimand could have prejudiced the jury.

Prosecutors had braced for the tough questioning by getting Mr Gates to come clean about his own crimes.

But on Wednesday, Downing suggested that Gates had withheld the extent of his philandering from prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

FBI forensic accountant Morgan Magionos walked jurors through her special counsel-ordained investigation that revealed how Manafort purchased luxury goods back in the USA through foreign bank accounts. Gates also provided the first witness testimony that overlaps with Trump's presidential campaign.

He showed jurors how the Federal Bureau of Investigation had painstakingly traced wire transfers from foreign bank accounts to retailers in the USA who sold Manafort expensive goods - including the custom men's clothier Alan Couture, where Manafort bought jackets made of ostrich and python skin that each cost five figures.

Gates, who is married and has four children, acknowledged having had a "relationship" a decade ago and admitted to stealing from his boss during a "difficult time" in his life by inflating personal expenses.

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