Manafort Trial, Day 6: You Go To War With The Asshole You Have
Another day, another batshit insane hearing in the Paul Manafort trial! Rick Gates spent six hours on the stand wishing he were having a nice, relaxing root canal. Paul Manafort stared daggers through his former intern all growed up. Defense counsel Kevin Downing earned his millions by beating the crap out of the witness. And Judge T.S. Ellis was a cantankerous, old loon. Those guys in Alexandria know how to party!
Gates kicked off the morning by naming the oligarchs -- AHEM, UKRAINIAN BUSINESSMEN -- who pumped millions into accounts in Cyprus and the Grenadines to compensate Paul Manafort for his services to the pro-Russian Party of Regions. Why would the Ukrainian transportation minister and the president's chief of staff be paying Manafort $4 million per year after the election? Turns out he's not just the world's best ratfucker -- Manafort was a "policy adviser" helping to reorient the country toward Mother Russia. Which is very good preparation for running a US presidential campaign!
Manafort's services included advice on how to outsmart American law enforcement. After being interviewed by the FBI in 2014 about Ukrainian "asset forfeiture," he dispatched Rick Gates to brief their Ukrainian patrons on how best to protect all the goodies they'd expropriated from Ukrainian government coffers. Which is something Paul Manafort knew a lot about, since he put considerable effort into protecting his own Ukrainian payments from the IRS. BUT ...
How about we just stipulate that Gates did a good job testifying to all Manafort's financial fuckery, and the prosecutors brought the receipts, mmmmkay? Since we've splained that stuff eleventy days running now, let's skip to the crazyass fireworks in the afternoon.
Which means ... Rick Gates's lyin' peener! Because this guy has done some shit. He stole from his boss, he lied to Robert Mueller, and when Downing asked, "There was another Richard Gates, isn't that right? A secret Richard Gates," he knew exactly where it was going. So Gates plunged right in and copped to having had an affair 10 years ago, which he subsidized by embezzling money from Manafort's firm. Skimming cash and using it to fly first-class to London and stay in a fancy hotel with your sexxytimes ladyfriend is not a good look for a witness. And while Gates was up against the wall, Downing stuck a ledger in front of him and fired off a volley of rapid-fire questions. Which had the desired effect of making Gates stumble and misremember, so Downing could shout, "Have they confronted you with so many lies you can't remember any of it?"
And later, when Gates was explaining how Manafort directed the vast majority of the financial shenanigans, Judge Ellis jumped in to kick him in the shins, too. WaPo reports,
"Mr. Manafort in my opinion kept fairly frequent updates," Gates said, after a discussion of movement between their consulting firm's offshore accounts. "Mr. Manafort was very good at knowing where the money was and where it was going."
Judge Ellis, as he has repeatedly, interjected.
"He didn't know about the money you were stealing," Ellis said, "so he didn't do it that closely."
GEE, THANKS YOUR HONOR! (No need for conspiracy theories. Judges are just assholes a lot of the time.)
Downing scored several direct hits on Gates yesterday. But if you want to feel a bit better about it, check out the whole thread above from Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. He seems fairly confident that the paper trail will be enough to convict, despite the fact that the star witness is a little weasel. And we are inclined to take his word for it -- because what the hell else can we do?
Gates also scored a few points of his own yesterday.
"After all the lies you've told and fraud you've committed, you expect this jury to believe you?" Downing asked.
"Yes," Gates responded flatly. The two men continued to talk over one another, and Gates remarked, "I'm here to tell the truth."
That's when his commentary turned to Manafort.
"Mr. Manafort had the same path," Gates said. "I'm here."
Gates added later that he had "accepted responsibility."
"I'm trying to change," he said.
Downing continued his examination of Gates this morning, and, SPOILER ALERT! Rick Gates is sleeping on the couch forever.
But more on that later. The only other exciting business yesterday involved an email exchange during the transition when Manafort said, HEY PAL, REMEMBER THAT BANKER DUDE STEPHEN CALK WHO LOANED ME $16 MILLION DOLLARS? DO ME A SOLID AND SEE IF YOU CAN GET HIM APPOINTED SECRETARY OF THE ARMY! The prosecutors' list of witnesses granted immunity included two employees of Calk's bank, so we're guessing that's coming back around as well.
So weird that Donald Trump surrounded himself with a bunch of lying criminals, right?
WE'LL KEEP YOU POSTED.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.