Mueller's 'star witness' testifies against former boss Paul Manafort

Rick Gates leaves federal court in Washington. Paul Manafort’s trial opened this week with a display of his opulent lifestyle and testimony about what prosecutors say were years of financial deception. But the

AP File Rick Gates outside the federal court in Washington in February

Paul Manafort's former associate Rick Gates has admitted that he committed crimes for the onetime Trump campaign manager when he was in his employ.

"Were you involved in criminal activity when you worked for Paul Manafort?".

"Did you commit a crime?" the prosecutor asked - and got another "yes" from Gates. The usually bearded Gates appeared in court clean-shaven on Monday.

The emails will provide the jurors a glimpse into the private conversations between Manafort and Gates, the man to whom he entrusted his personal and business finances.

The former Trump campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty to several counts of bank fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, among others, related to his work as a pro-Russia lobbyist in Ukraine. He has pleaded not guilt to all charges.

Attorneys representing Manafort have built their defense argument around Gates, painting him as the true culprit behind their client's alleged crimes and asserting that Manafort's only mistake was "placing his trust in the wrong person", referring to Gates.

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.

Trump insists Trump Tower meeting 'totally legal'
Trump Jr respond.ed "I love it", when first offered the political "dirt" on Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump campaign aides.

Prosecutors will move to admit those exchanges to the record when Gates takes the stand.

But Manafort's defense team is expected to use Gates, too.

When asked who was in charge in the relationship, Manafort's longtime tax accountant Phillip Ayliff told the jury: "Oh - Mr. Manafort".

But she said she was under the impression that Mr Manafort had been directing his deputies' actions and "knew what was going on".

His testimony is important for prosecutors: The federal judge in the trial, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, said in court last week they "can't prove conspiracy" in the case unless prosecutors call Gates to the stand. Ellis issued that warning after prosecutors suggested Gates might not be called to the stand after all.

But Laporta's testimony raised the stakes for Manafort, legal experts said.

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