Rick Gates (who was billed as Mueller’s star witness) proved why Mueller’s team didn’t want him to testify. Manafort’s lawyers sliced and diced him and reduced him to rubble. He now has no credibility after telling an obvious lie on the stand. Manafort’s lawyer asked Gates if he ever lied to the special counsel and Gates said that he had not. A huge mistake since he had pleaded guilty to that very same crime.
Gates tried to recover, saying that was the only time he lied. But as the questioning got more intense, most of his answers were “it’s possible” and “I don’t recall”. The defense also exposed the fact Gates had been leading a double life with a European mistress… He has taken her on trips with $2.5 million he stole from Manafort. He obviously practiced his testimony with Mueller’s lawyers for a long time as it was steady and sure. But they couldn’t teach him cross-examination, where he made himself look like a fool. If the prosecution doesn’t have anything else, Manafort will walk.
NPR’s national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson made some interesting points during an interview:
Yeah. Paul Manafort’s defense lawyer ran Rick Gates through a long list of wrongdoing – embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort by padding expense accounts, fraud with a different business partner and living a secret life, what Manafort’s lawyer said was an affair with a woman in London 10 years ago while Rick Gates was married. Manafort’s defense team hammered on Gates’ lie to the Office of Special Counsel, these prosecutors, after he’d already been charged with other crimes. And it took Rick Gates a while on the witness stand to say he lied to the FBI even though he pleaded guilty to that charge. Then Manafort’s defense lawyer, Kevin Downing, said you seem to have such a perfect recollection on direct examination by these prosecutors. You’re having such a hard time now. Why is that? Kind of an important moment in the cross-examination.
CHANG: And how damaging was this testimony from Gates then for prosecutors?
JOHNSON: Well, the jury took close – took notes, paid close attention to this attack on Rick Gates. Several jurors seemed to have a negative reaction to him. And at one point, when Manafort’s lawyer asked Rick Gates whether he saved himself from potentially hundreds of years in prison by pleading guilty, Gates made a joke. The audience in the courtroom laughed, but it was not clear that it was funny to the jury or to prosecutors.
At this point, both the jury and the judge seem to be very skeptical of Gates, for good reason. This is not expected to lead to a conviction unless the prosecution has some better witnesses and evidence to produce. Gates’ testimony is a net loss for prosecutors.