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

09 August 2018

In one case, she alleged that foreign accounts were used by Manafort to pay for more than $3.5 million in home improvements.

Melinda James, a Citizens Bank mortgage loan assistant, is testifying in the financial fraud trial of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

Manafort, 69, is the first defendant to go to court to fight charges stemming from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors called Morgan Magionos, an Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant, as the next witness to testify. Magionos also detailed personal payments made by Manafort to companies and services through his many offshore accounts.

Numerous emails admitted into evidence Wednesday showed how Manafort personally directed wire transfers from such accounts. This was a way to decrease Manafort's taxable income, added Gates, who did not report the money to Manafort's book-keeper or accountants.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has been pushing prosecutors to hurry through their case.

She essentially connected the dots of testimony from previous witnesses - vendors, Manafort's bookkeeper and accountants, and Gates - but did so in a way that presented direct links between one witness's part of the story and another's.

"It actually kind of shows in real time the course of months of investigation where they painstakingly did a jigsaw puzzle of records", former USA prosecutor Harry Litman said of Magionos' testimony.

When Trump asked Perlmutter, a friend and confidante, to help put together his government in December 2016, he agreed to be an outside adviser, selected veterans as his focus, and roped in two other friends, Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskovitz and lawyer Marc Sherman, Arnsdorf says.

The tough questioning of Gates came after he spent hours telling jurors how he disguised millions of dollars in foreign income as loans in order to lower Manafort's tax bill.

At the time he worked for Trump, jurors heard, Manafort's business in Ukraine had always been dried up, and his firm didn't have any clients.

As he has repeatedly noted, President Donald Trump is not directly implicated in Paul Manafort's Virginia trial.

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

At times, Ellis has crossed lines, Litman said. He also admitted to embezzling money from other employers in the past.

He scoffed at the idea Mr Gates had repented for his actions, noting that prosecutors have said they won't oppose his bid for probation and getting him to acknowledge he had not repaid the money he had taken from Mr Manafort. Some of the jurors respond loudly, "Yes, judge" or "Yes, your honor". Witnesses are usually excluded from watching unless allowed by the judge.

Following Gates' testimony, prosecutors resumed trying to make their case for financial fraud by Manafort through documentary evidence to demonstrate his control of offshore bank accounts containing millions of dollars not reported to the IRS as required by USA law.

Prosecutor Greg Andres asked Gates on Wednesday whether Mueller's team had told him how to answer questions.

Defense lawyer Kevin Downing began his cross-examination of longtime Manafort deputy Rick Gates by pressing him on his own lies to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, an extramarital affair and hundreds of thousands of dollars he admitted to embezzling from his former boss.

"The idea of exchanging income for loans reduced his overall tax liability", Gates said. Regarding a trading company Manafort had started with a partner in 2011, he asked with deep scepticism: "You're asking the jury to believe Mr Manafort authorised another US$250,000 as a bonus?"

"They may not like him. They may think he's a sleazebag - but that's not going to make them overturn how they view the documents", the former attorney said.

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