Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign manager for President Donald Trump, testified Monday that he committed crimes with his onetime business partner Paul Manafort. By that time, he had worked on several Republican presidential campaigns, including those of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole.
On the witness stand Monday, Gates spoke about how he broke the law with Manafort, including by providing false and doctored documents to banks in an effort to inflate Manafort's income to qualify him for loans. Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign members and Russian officials in the election campaign, but the charges against Manafort do not address that.
Throughout his testimony, Gates largely avoided making eye contact with Manafort, who appeared to be watching him.
The government called Gates, its star witness, to the stand Monday, just five days into what prosecutors originally expected would be a three-week trial.
But Gates' testimony pits two former senior Trump campaign aides against one another. Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts containing tens of millions of dollars earned from work for Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine.
Gates also testified that both he and Manafort had control over the foreign accounts, as well as Manafort's business associate Konstantin Kilimnik.
Gates read off the names of more than a dozen shell companies he and Manafort set up in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom to stash the proceeds of Manafort's Ukrainian political consulting work.
Undercutting Gates' credibility is the foundation of Manafort's defence. Gates pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Mueller's investigation of Manafort in what prosecutors say was an elaborate offshore tax evasion and fraud scheme. Gates was charged with 12 counts of tax and bank fraud in the same indictment, after which he chose to become a cooperating witness.
Gates testified that he and Manafort had 15 foreign accounts they did not report to the US government, and knew that was illegal.More news: Opelousas General Health System Celebrates World Breastfeeding Week & National Breastfeeding Month
"I assisted Mr. Manafort in filing false tax returns", Gates testified. Instead, he glanced up at him periodically but mostly stared intently at documents displayed for the jury on a screen in front of him.
"Yes", Laporta said, "of course" she would call Manafort if she suspected Gates was enriching himself with Manafort's money.
So far, that testimony has provided jurors with a damning account.
The defendant's lawyers say Rick Gates embezzled millions of dollars from Mr Manafort's consulting firm.
He has also sought to blame Mr Gates for the crimes.
He said that some of Manafort's income was disguised as loans from 15 shell companies that Manafort controlled, a lot of them in Cyprus.
In addition to those crimes, Gates has revealed other criminal conduct.
In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked her about a $10 million (£7.72 million) loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006.