Star witness Rick Gates testifies against former boss Paul Manafort

Last Updated Aug 6, 2018 7:07 PM EDT

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The government's star witness took the stand Monday in the bank fraud and tax evasion trial of Paul Manafort, the onetime chairman of the Trump presidential campaign. Rick Gates became the first member of the Trump campaign to publicly admit to crimes.

Special counsel Robert Mueller charged Gates and Paul Manafort last year with dozens of counts related to their lobbying efforts on behalf of foreign governments. Gates agreed to flip on his former boss in exchange for leniency.

On Monday, Prosecutors quickly got to the heart of the case.

"Did you commit crimes with Mr. Manafort?" asked prosecutor Greg Andres.

"Yes", Gates replied.

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Richard Gates

AP

Gates said he conspired with Manafort to falsify tax returns, knowingly failed to report foreign bank accounts and failed to register Manafort as a foreign agent.

In court on Monday, a retired carpenter, a clothier and a high-end landscaper detailed how Manafort paid them in international wire transfers from offshore companies.

Gates testified that he and Manafort had 15 foreign accounts they did not report to the U.S. government, and knew that was illegal.

"Mr. Manafort requested I make wire transfers from the foreign accounts," Gates said. "At Mr. Manafort's request ... we did not disclose the foreign bank accounts."

Gates also admitted he embezzled money from his boss — something Manafort's attorneys have alleged for months.

"I added money to expense reports and created expense reports" that were not accurate, he said, to pad his salary by "several hundred thousand [dollars]."

There was no mention of President Trump or his campaign, but this trial is the first big public test for the special counsel. The White House says Mr. Trump feels his former campaign chair is being treated unfairly.

"Certainly the president has made clear he believes Mr. Manafort has been treated unfairly," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday.

The special counsel's case hinges on Gates and they are asking the jury to believe someone who just admitted to half a dozen crimes on the witness stand.

It's important to note that some of the alleged bank fraud did occur while Manafort was running the Trump campaign.