Accountant testifies she helped Manafort falsify tax returns

Paul Manafort former campaign manager for President Trump exits from federal court in Washington earlier this year.
Bloomberg  Al Drago

Though experts believe obstruction by tweet is possible, prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular act got in the way of an investigation and that the person who did it meant to obstruct.

WASHINGTON-Special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors are walking the jury in the trial of Paul Manafort through records to back their claim that the former Trump campaign chairman deceived his own financial advisers to hide his foreign accounts and income from USA tax authorities.

Heather Washkuhn, a bookkeeper for Manafort, told the jury that she had no knowledge of the offshore companies and bank accounts that prosecutors say Manafort used to spend millions of dollars without being taxed over the last decade.

After Laporta, the remainder of the prosecution's witness list is unclear.

Attorneys for special counsel Robert Mueller's team say in a court filing that an Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic accountant reviewed "tens of thousands" of documents from 20 financial institutions and 35 companies to support the tax evasion and bank fraud charges against Manafort. Though this case is not about Russian Federation or possible election conspiracy, it has captured Trump's attention.

Manafort has a second trial scheduled for September in the District of Columbia. Aides insisted the president's comments were an opinion, not an order. The firm, which charged Manafort about $100,000 a year, was hired to track all of his income and expenses for his business and personal accounts.

They also testified that they often did not receive the underlying documentation they requested to support transactions that Manafort and Gates falsely characterized as loans on Manafort's tax returns and financial statements. Earlier this year, Trump blindsided the Defence Department when he tweeted out a transgender ban for the military, prompting the Pentagon to slow walk the program. But a judge could give him less time if prosecutors decide he provided "substantial assistance" to the special counsel's office. But he never told her that millions in foreign wire transfers were coming from companies prosecutors say he controlled.

"Rick Gates is a double-edged sword", said Mintz. And while Mueller did not bring any election-related charges against Manafort, the spectre of the Russian investigation is hanging over the Alexandria, Virginia, courthouse.

Gates spent the bulk of his career working in Manafort's shadow, beginning as a research assistant in the 1990s. This case has had hours of tax code explanation and tax returns, corporate financial accounting and the intricacies of loan, income and mortgage tax deductions.

In other words, if Manafort wins, the trial was incredibly important, but if he loses, it was meaningless. Those money managers said Manafort claimed he didn't control any foreign accounts and left them largely in the dark about his clients. But he says Manafort authorized those discussions, and the two never contradicted each other. He's already admitted guilt and to lying to federal authorities.

And those were just Gates's lies to the government. "We only dealt with Mr. Gates on business affairs".

She clearly explained, for instance, why Mr. Gates asked - and she agreed - that she characterize $900,000 that had been previously reported as income as a loan to DMP International, which Mr. Manafort and his wife owned. They allege Manafort is a victim of Gates' illegal activity.

A federal judge warned prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller's team on August 2 that they "can't prove conspiracy" in the trial of Paul Manafort unless Rick Gates, Manafort's former business partner, takes the stand.

Laporta also detailed multiple examples in which Manafort and Gates sought to doctor financial records. But that strategy was undercut a couple of times, as witnesses insisted Manafort was clearly in charge and aware of what they were doing. One way to do that could be to show that documents Manafort had provided to the accountant contained details about foreign bank accounts.

"Rick Gates had his hand in the cookie jar, and he couldn't take the risk that his boss might find out", Zehnle said.

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