Defence lawyers for Paul Manafort made a last-ditch attempt on Wednesday to torpedo the key witness at his trial by asking whether he failed to disclose four extramarital affairs.
Attorney Kevin Downing suggested the revelation would destroy Rick Gates’s plea agreement with the special counsel’s office but was blocked by an instant government objection.
The drama came at the end of Gates’s testimony in the trial of his former boss and mentor Manafort, an ex-Donald Trump campaign chairman accused of bank fraud and tax evasion.
Manafort and Gates were the first two individuals indicted in Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The case has little to do with either man’s work for the Trump campaign, which has only tangentially figured in the trial.
In a final back and forth between lawyers over Gates’s credibility, the focus turned to his decision to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which Manafort’s defence have portrayed as an attempt to save his own skin.
Gates told the court in Alexandria, Virginia, that he had met with government lawyer Greg Andres and FBI agents 20 times and been told only to tell the truth, without any guarantee that he will be spared prison. Andres put it to him: “As you sit here today, do you have any doubt that if you lie, the special counsel’s office will rip up your plea agreement?”
Gates said he did not.
Downing then noted how on Tuesday he had referred to the witness’s “secret life”, in particular an extra-marital affair he conducted in London, that involved lavish spending on…