ALEXANDRIA, VA — Paul Manafort attorney Kevin Downing asked Rick Gates during questioning Wednesday whether he told the special counsel about four extramarital affairs that Gates had.
Downing’s question came after prosecutor Greg Andres had stressed in his questioning of Gates Wednesday morning that his plea deal would be ripped up if he lied from the stand.
When Downing got up for another round of questions, he asked Gates about his description of the relationship as “a” mistake.
After Downing asked whether Gates told the special counsel about four extramarital affairs, the prosecutors quickly objected on the basis of relevance.
Downing hinted that he wanted to get at the prosecution’s questioning of Gates about what would happen to his plea deal if he lied from the witness stand.
The judge asked the lawyers to come to the bench to discuss the matter.
Manafort is on trial here facing bank and tax fraud charges. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Gates served as Manafort’s deputy during the pair’s lobbying work in Ukraine. He was expected to be the prosecution’s star witness in the case after reaching a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
The bench conference took ten minutes. The court was not told what Judge T.S. Ellis ruled, but when Downing came back he asked Gates if his “secret life” spanned the period in defense exhibit 17, which spanned several years.
Gates first responded, “I made many mistakes over several years.”
Gates then responded “yes” to Downing’s question.
The tensions over Downing’s focus on Gates’ marital infidelity came after rounds of questioning where the temperature was somewhat cooler than what it had been on Tuesday afternoon, when Downing drubbed Manafort’s ex-business deputy about his admission that he embezzled from his former boss, and other alleged criminal activity.
Downing’s initial round of questions Wednesday morning focused on 2014 interviews Gates and Manafort gave separately to the FBI about their Ukraine work, which Gates understood to part of an investigation into how their former client, Ukraine ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, handled the country’s money.
Gates testified that Manafort had instructed him to be “open” with the FBI in that interview about how they were paid.
However, when Andres returned to the podium for another chance to question Gates, Gates said that Manafort did reach out to a Ukrainian businessman before his FBI interview to get more information about the entity that the businessman used to pay him and to make sure that it was “clean,” meaning it was only used to pay Manafort.
Andres also used his questioning to clean up some of the other messes made during Downing’s initial round of cross-examination Tuesday afternoon. Andres notably used the word “embezzlement,” a word prosecutors previously avoided in describing Gates’ scheme to take money from Manafort by inflating expense reports, and Gates testified that the Ukrainian businessmen funding their consulting work ultimately paid for the reported expenses.
Andres asked if Gates, who had previously testified to meeting with the special counsel’s office 20 times for trial prep, had been instructed by the special counsel’s team how to answer certain questions.
“The only answer I was told was to tell the truth,” Gates said.
Downing finished questioning Gates around 11 a.m. Wednesday. FBI agent Morgan Magionos is expected to take the stand next.