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Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

On day five of Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia, casual observers and journalists alike were eager to see Manafort deputy Rick Gates take the stand. This became clear when Kevin Downing, a lawyer representing Manafort, let it slip that Gates would testify soon, sending reporters scrambling out of the courtroom to relay the news.

Judge T.S. Ellis then told the courtroom that, while the last time Gates was mentioned and reporters ran out of the room it was “disruptive” and “mildly amusing,” the second such stampede was “not amusing” and even more disruptive.

Before Gates’ testimony was announced, court staff were relatively tolerant of some whispering among the public and press, as well as reporters’ need to leave and re-enter the courtroom to file updates.

However, once Gates’ impending arrival was broadcast, those in the courtroom struggled to contain their excitement and court staff policed the whispers more closely. The court security officer told several people to keep quiet or “take it outside” while the lawyers for both sides met with the judge at the bench before a special agent for The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network testified briefly ahead of Gates.

Before Gates took the stand, Ellis called a short recess. While members of the public last week begrudgingly tolerated reporters’ attempts to save their seats in the room while they filed, the atmosphere in the room changed once everyone knew the star witness would soon testify. Members of the public lobbied harder for seats left vacant by reporters who ran out to post updates, repeating Ellis’ constant reminder that there are no assigned seats in his courtroom. Right up until the recess ended, people milled about the room, hoping to snag a seat for the proceedings began again. People squeezed as many onlookers as they could into the courtroom’s wooden benches, and everyone else had to watch the proceedings from an overflow room with a video stream of the trial.

Wish us luck tomorrow as we cover the second day of Gates’ testimony.

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Testimony from Cindy LaPorta, an immunized witness in Paul Manafort’s trial who worked as his tax accountant, suggested that Manafort and Rick Gates requested inappropriate changes to tax documents and doctored letters in order to inflate income on loan applications.

Mueller alleges that Manafort and his deputy, Gates, began doctoring financial documents in order to obtain loans or to get better rates on loans. Emails submitted by the prosecution on Friday, along with testimony from LaPorta, started to fill in the details of those allegations.

Prosecutors first brought up discussion of a loan application Manafort submitted related to a New York City property in Soho, a property that both Gates and Manafort said in 2015 was a rental property. However, according to a January 2016 email from Manafort submitted on Friday, Manafort told an official at Citizen’s Bank that the property is a second residence, and CCed LaPorta on the email, explaining that LaPorta would back him up on that. LaPorta testified that she told Citizen’s Bank that the home was a second residence, even though she admitted in trial that it was actually used as a rental. LaPorta testified that Manafort would get a better rate if he applied for a loan using a residence, rather than a rental property.

In another 2016 discussion of a loan application at Citizen’s Bank, Manafort and Gates told LaPorta that they don’t qualify for a loan because of a 2012 $1.5 loan from Peranova Holdings. LaPorta testified that she then told Citizen’s Bank that the loan was forgiven in 2015. She said that either Manafort or Gates told her to relay that to the bank and that she relied on “their word.” Asked if she believed the loan had been forgiven, LaPorta said she did not believe that at the time. LaPorta also testified that she had seen documents that showed that there had been no payments on the loan between 2012 and 2014.

Emails submitted by the prosecution showed that Gates told LaPorta he would provide a letter on the loan forgiveness and then “chase down signatures.” LaPorta testified it was “highly unlikely” that documents had been signed yet because Gates’ email suggested that he was backdating a letter. A letter sent by Gates on Peranova letterhead declaring the loan forgiven was dated June 23, 2015, eight months before the mention of needing signatures in the 2016 email to LaPorta. LaPorta testified that it was a “false” document that she didn’t edit. Yet she passed it on to Citizen’s Bank, according to the emails and her testimony.

“I honestly believed that the bank would have to vet the document themselves,” LaPorta said when asked why she sent the document she knew was “false,” adding that she felt she was protected since she did not create the letter.

However, for yet another loan application Cindy LaPorta declined to pass along a letter to Citizen’s Bank about Manafort’s flow of income in 2014 and 2015 that was requested by Gates.

“I dismissed this letter,” she said. “I couldn’t agree to any of that.” Instead, she wrote a letter including “what I knew had happened,” she testified.

Finally, prosecutors raised August 2016 discussions of a loan application to Federal Savings Bank, which is run by Trump supported Steve Calk. In August 2016, Manafort asked LaPorta to create a profit and loss statement for his consulting firm showing that he would receive $2.4 million in November 2016 for consulting work in Ukraine. He wanted to send it to Federal Savings Bank, LaPorta said.

The statement would record Manafort’s income on an accrual basis (records income when earned), not a cash basis (records income when paid). LaPorta said that typically Manafort’s bookkeeping service prepared his profit and loss statements but that they kept the ledger on a cash basis, which would mean this request would violate that policy.

LaPorta testified that she initially agreed to prepare the profit and loss statement but declined to do so when she never received documents supporting Manafort’s claim that he would be paid in November 2016.

Manafort is on trial in Virginia for tax fraud and bank fraud charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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On the third day of Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia, his lead bookkeeper, Heather Washkuhn, testified that she was unaware that Manafort allegedly had control over foreign bank accounts or businesses.

While Washkuhn was aware that Manafort received payments for work he did via foreign bank accounts, she said that she was unaware that he himself controlled any foreign bank accounts.

Prosecutor Greg Andres asked Washkuhn if she was aware of Manafort bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Ukraine, and she said she was not. Andres also listed several companies prosecutors have alleged Manafort was connected to, which Washkuhn said she was also unaware of.

As Manafort’s lead bookkeeper from 2014 onward, Washkuhn said she kept track of all of Manafort’s income and expenses for both his business and personal dealings. Her work included paying bills and managing his several properties, she said Thursday.

Washkuhn said that she interacted with Rick Gates on matters related to Manafort’s business, but that she only dealt with Manafort himself on his personal finances.

“He approved every penny of everything we paid,” she said, referring to Manafort’s personal finances.

Washkuhn said that she also recorded when Manafort received loans. She told the courtroom that while she always asked for documentation on the loans, she did not always receive it.

As part of her bookkeeping work for Manafort, Washkuhn said she kept a general ledger of Manafort’s incoming and outgoing money to send to Manafort’s tax preparers at the end of the year.

As of lunchtime, prosecutors had only begun their questioning of Washkuhn. Before she testified, Andres predicted that the prosecution would question her for about two and a half to three hours, but Andres only spent about 40 minutes with Washkuhn before the judge ordered a break for lunch.

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A day after giving a coy answer to the judge about whether it would call Rick Gates as a witness, the prosecution confirmed Thursday that the plan remains for Gates to testify in the ongoing Virginia trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“We have every intention to call him as witness,” prosecutor Greg Andres said in court before the jury was ushered into the room.

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After the lunch break in Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial on Wednesday afternoon, lawyers for the prosecution called two witnesses who detailed that the former Trump campaign chairman spent thousands of dollars on luxury clothing using wire transfers from international bank accounts.

Maximillian Katzman entered the Alexandria courtroom in a well-tailored navy suit, with a navy striped tie and a white pocket square. Katzman was the manager for his father’s tailoring business Alan Couture while Manafort was a customer there. Although Katzman described Manafort as “one of our top five clients” he said that Manafort was sometimes late in paying bills. According to data collected by the prosecution and confirmed by Katzman, Manafort spent more than $900,000 in Alan Couture between 2010 and 2014.

Katzman said that Manafort paid for the clothing with an international wire transfer and that he was the only client at Alan Couture who did so.

However, Ronald Wall, the top financial officer at House of Bijan, said that Manafort was not the only customer there who paid via wire transfer. Wall confirmed that Manafort spent more than $300,000 at House of Bijan between 2010 and 2012.

Because Judge T.S. Ellis, who is presiding over the case, made a point to prevent the prosecution from submitting several images of the clothing and other luxury items purchased by Manafort, lawyers for special counsel Robert Mueller only submitted photos showing the Alan Couture and House of Bijan labels. It appears the jury and the public will not see other items in Manafort’s closet, such as a $21,000 watch. However, Wall said that Manafort purchased a black limited edition “Royal Way” watch from the House of Bijan.

In brief testimony, the controller of a Mercedes Benz dealership in Alexandria, Virginia, described Manafort purchasing a car using a wire transfer to pay the balance due, after a trade in, of $62,750. The use of a wire transfer was unusual but not unheard of, Daniel Opsut testified.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team called its second witness to the stand Wednesday morning in former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s trial here, Democratic political consultant Daniel Rabin.

Rabin testified that he worked with Manafort on projects in Ukraine from 2006 to 2014 on television ads, media strategy, and messaging for a parliamentary campaign and for Viktor Yanukovych’s presidential campaign.

Rabin revealed that while Manafort paid him for most of his work and expenses, he was left with one unpaid invoice from one of Manafort’s company in 2014 for $31,000.

Prompted by Greg Andres, the lawyer arguing for Mueller’s team, Rabin described Manafort as “thorough” and “strict” while running campaigns. Rabin called Gates Manafort’s “gatekeeper,” who managed invoices, approved expenses for other consultants and passed information on to Manafort.

During Rabin’s testimony, the lawyers for Manafort objected to Andres admitting a picture of Yanukovych into the record, something that Manafort’s legal team tried to prevent ahead of trial. Ellis called the lawyers to the bench for a five-minute discussion that the rest of the courtroom could not hear, and he allowed one of the three photos of Yanukovych to be admitted. The photo depicted Yanukovich with Rabin, another consultant who worked with Manafort, and others, on set before a political commercial shoot, according to Rabin’s testimony.

Andres’ questioning of Rabin appeared to be aimed at establishing Manafort’s Ukraine work, in a similar fashion to Tad Devine’s testimony on Tuesday.

In cross examination, Richard Westling, the lawyer arguing for Manafort, asked questions that seemed aimed at establishing Manafort as a “talented political consultant” who generally paid Rabin for his work. He also asked if Gates handled invoices, as well as the business side and logistics of Manafort’s work. Rabin said that Gates and another Manafort employee handled invoices.

Manafort is facing bank and tax fraud charges stemming from his political work in Ukraine. He has pleaded not guilty.

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The first day of Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia ended Tuesday evening with testimony from Tad Devine, a Democratic political consultant who worked with Manafort on campaigns in Ukraine.

The opening day of trial took off like a shot, with jury selection done by early afternoon, opening statements over in an hour and the first witness called and cross examined, all before 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis made a point to move the proceedings along as quickly as possible, appearing frustrated with the lawyers if it seemed that they were taking too long.

Throughout Devine’s testimony, Greg Andres, the lawyer arguing for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, asked questions about Devine’s work in Ukraine with Manafort. Andres’ questions appeared aimed at establishing the political work Manafort was doing in Ukraine for the Party of Regions, and that Devine was being paid by Manafort.

During his testimony, Devine revealed that he earned $500,000 as part of a 2009 consulting agreement for his work on Viktor Yanukovych’s 2010 presidential run in Ukraine. Devine also revealed that he earned an additional $100,000 after Yanukovych won the election in 2010. Devine said that his firm was paid by Manafort’s company via wire transfer but that he was unsure whether it was from a foreign bank account.

Devine told Andres that he worked on media and speechwriting for campaigns in Ukraine, and he listed other American consultants who worked with him, including Daniel Rabin, another person listed as a potential witness, and Tony Fabrizio, a polling consultant who later went on to work for Donald Trump’s campaign. Devine also said that Manafort worked with Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s business counterpart in Ukraine.

In cross examination, defense lawyer Richard Westling asked questions that appeared to be aimed at establishing Manafort’s work in Ukraine as legitimate and noble. He asked Devine whether he thought highly of Manafort, to which Devine replied that he did. Westling characterized the Party of Regions’ efforts that Manafort worked on as an effort to open Ukraine up to Western alliances.

Westling asked Devine about Manafort deputy Richard Gates, specifically whether it was part of Gates’ job to manage Manafort’s business operations in the U.S. while he was abroad, as well as to handle the business side of things in general. Devine replied that he believed those tasks were part of Gates’ role.

After cross examination, Andres asked one final question: whether Devine had a bank account in Cyprus. After an objection from the defense, Ellis allowed the question, and Devine said that he did not have such an account.

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In the opening statement for the Virginia trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, a federal prosecutor painted Manafort as a man who knowingly lied to the government and acted as though he were above the law.

“A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him,” said Uzo Asonye, a member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution team, referring to Manafort.

Asonye told the jury that the special counsel’s case will prove that Manafort failed to report $15 million in income to the U.S. government by funneling money directly from foreign bank accounts to vendors, misleading his bookkeeper and tax preparers, and by claiming the income was a loan. Asonye said that the government’s case will also show that Manafort misled financial institutions in order to obtain loans after his work in Ukraine dried up.

“All of these charges boil down to one simple issue: Did Paul Manafort lie,” Asonye told the jury.

Manafort was indicted on multiple counts of bank and tax fraud arising from his work for the former pro-Russian regime in Ukraine. He has pleaded not guilty. Manafort is the first person to be tried as part of Mueller’s sprawling investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Before laying out the government’s case in more detail, Asonye described Manafort’s lifestyle while he was working for Ukrainian political leaders until 2014, noting that Manafort spent the millions he earned on luxury items. Among the goods Manafort allegedly bought with this money, according to Asonye, was a $21,000 watch and a $15,000 jacket made out of ostrich.

At this point, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis jumped in to note that it’s not a crime to be rich and implored Asonye to focus on how Manafort allegedly broke the law.

Asonye then noted that Manafort did not “pay the taxes he owed” to the government by filing false tax returns and began to give the jury more detail on Manafort’s alleged actions.

“The evidence will show that Paul Manafort placed himself and his money above the law,” Asonye said.

He alleged that Manafort had more than 30 foreign bank accounts but knowingly lied to the government about the accounts. Asonye said that the jury will hear from vendors who received wire transfers directly from the foreign accounts and from Manafort’s bookkeeper who allegedly did not receive the correct information on Manafort’s finances.

The prosecutor accused Manafort of disguising his income as if it were loans. These “sham” or “bogus” loans helped Manafort avoid paying taxes on it, Asonye said.

After laying out the government’s case for tax fraud, Asonye moved on to the bank fraud charges, alleging that Manafort lied on loan applications when he started running out of cash.

“He literally created cash out of thin air,” Asonye said, referring to Manafort’s loan applications and allegedly doctored financial statements.

Asonye emphasized that while Manafort delegated much of the work in furthering this alleged scheme to his associates, Manafort gave constant directions and received regular updates.

“None of this happened by accident,” Asonye said, adding that the government’s evidence “will establish that Paul Manafort” lied to his bookkeeper, his tax preparer, the IRS, and financial institutions.

Jury selection in the case began Tuesday morning and moved swiftly. By early afternoon, a jury was seated and opening statements began. The prosecution is now expected to begin putting on its case before the end of the day.

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On Tuesday morning, not long before jury selection began in former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial, lawyers for special counsel Robert Mueller filed an updated exhibit list.

The list of more than 400 exhibits remains largely unchanged from the original list filed earlier in July, and Mueller’s team will likely not use all of the exhibits listed, but the special counsel’s lawyers added new exhibits for a few of the key storylines laid out in the lead-up to the trial.

Mueller’s team added a few new items related to the loan Manafort allegedly obtained from Federal Savings Bank, run by Steve Calk, the banker interested in a Trump administration position. Those items include the journal of a former bank employee granted immunity to testify and an email with the subject line “Nervousness is setting in.”

The exhibit list also includes new documents related to the purchase of Yankees season tickets, a photograph of the outdoor kitchen at one of Manafort’s homes, and an email from Manafort to his longtime deputy Rick Gates about “DOD Service secretaries.”

Read the new exhibit list:

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