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Takeaways from day seven of the Paul Manafort trial

On the seventh day of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's criminal trial, the prosecution wasn't ...

Posted: Aug 9, 2018 12:44 PM
Updated: Aug 9, 2018 12:44 PM

On the seventh day of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's criminal trial, the prosecution wasn't ready to rest. Instead, the super-lobbyist's longtime right-hand man abided about a final hour of questioning, capping his three days in the courtroom. And after Rick Gates finished giving his close-up angle on Manafort's financial doings, the prosecution zoomed out to put the financial charges all into context.

Here are four takeaways from the day in court Wednesday:

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Rick Gates

1. Gates fireworks had a grand finale

Manafort's defense team did its darndest to sully Gates as a liar, a cheat, a thief and an adulterer for eight hours inside Judge T.S. Ellis' Alexandria courtroom over the past three days. The last gasp of the defense team's attacks landed with one final accusation in front of the jury: that Gates had cheated on his wife several times over the years. The prosecutors and judge stopped Gates from answering the question, yet he still ended his testimony by saying he had "made many mistakes over many years."

The question for jurors is how much that matters. Before the final bang -- or was it a whimper? -- prosecutors had their own opportunity Wednesday morning to revisit with Gates exactly what he had done by way of financial crimes, and the steep, lifelong consequence of prison time he could face if he told the jury inaccuracies about Manafort.

RELATED: Manafort had more than $65 million in foreign accounts, FBI tells jury

Perhaps the Gates saga could boil down to one exchange about crime and consequences, and the decision he had made to turn on Manafort.

Prosecutor Greg Andres recalled how the defense team had implied Gates was getting out of a 200-year prison sentence by testifying.

"I thought it was a lower amount," Gates said Wednesday.

The judge asked for clarification.

"I thought it was somewhere in the range of a hundred years, your honor," Gates said. Ellis smiled and several people laughed.

Then, turning solemn, Gates said he had "no doubt in his mind" that the Special Counsel's Office would rip up the plea agreement and throw the charges -- and then some -- back onto him if he were wrong about what Manafort had done.

2. The big picture

The two witnesses who followed Gates gave the government a greater voice in the proceedings than it's had so far. FBI forensic accountant Morgan Magionos showed her work on tracking Manafort's Ukrainian money and payments out of his foreign accounts. Then IRS revenue auditor Michael Welch piled on about the very same facts and figures that formed Manafort's alleged lies on five years of tax returns.

In all, the pair of authoritative money trackers explained just how large Manafort's alleged foreign bank-account scheme was and how much he's accused of siphoning secretly into luxe purchases.

3. With big numbers

And how large it was. Manafort welcomed more than $65 million from Ukrainian political backers' foreign entities into his own secret Cypriot and other offshore accounts during Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's four years in office, according to Magionos.

More than $15 million of that went to personal purchases, like ostrich and python skin jackets, a dining room renovation, flower beds in the Hamptons and a karaoke machine, the IRS and FBI employees testified.

Manafort also used Ukraine-originated money to pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of cosmetic dentistry, horseback riding, an Italian villa rental and apparently a yacht, according to Welch. Many of those could have been business expenses, the agent said, but the other millions of dollars certainly should have been disclosed to the IRS as income.

4. Passing the baton

The jury was reminded of the universe of vendors who've testified -- the high-end suit sellers, the landscaper, the friend-turned-real-estate-agent, the general contractor -- as the FBI and IRS representatives walked through money flowing into their legitimate businesses from Manafort's foreign accounts. The circle is now complete in the prosecutors' exposition of Manafort's alleged foreign banking and tax crimes.

Now the trial will likely move into gritty tales of bank fraud.

Bankers and others familiar with Manafort's real estate portfolio and debts are poised to recount that he lied to get mortgages. That includes even using his position as Trump campaign chairman to sway a banker for a few more million dollars, according to court filings and previous testimony.

It's not yet clear who will be called to testify as the trial kicks back into gear Thursday morning. There are eight awaiting souls ready to share their stories about Manafort -- not including those who the defense attorneys plan to call. Prosecutors say they hope to reach their finale by Friday. Then the defense takes the stage.

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