On Wednesday, the closing arguments were given in Paul Manaforts’ trial and it seemed that former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates wasn’t as vital to the trial as he was depicted to be.
The prosecutor Greg Andres, who is a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, revealed that Gates was not the star witness of Manafort’s trial. Instead, he declared, “Ladies and gentleman, the star witness in this case is the documents.” He went on to claim that the prosecution had “overwhelming” evidence that Manafort is guilty. Andres then laid out extensive evidence against Manafort for more than 90 minutes.
So, why was Gates portrayed as such an important part of the trial? According to a CNN source who is familiar with the investigation, prosecutors “told him [Gates] they didn’t need his cooperation against Manafort, and instead wanted to hear what he knew about contact between the Trump campaign and Russians.”
Mueller’s team believed that Gates had contact with a close colleague of Manafort who worked for a Russian intelligence agency. As a part of his plea deal for a reduced sentence and a several charges to be dropped against him, Gates had to reveal the communication with Manafort’s close colleague. Ultimately, Mueller used Gates’ plea deal to find out information on alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians while Andres gathered all the evidence he needed to prove Manafort was guilty.
Manafort’s defense team is expected to call Gates’ testimony into question in their closing arguments which will include labeling Gates as a liar. Attorney and proprietor of the legal blog Popehat, Ken White, refers to the defense’s expected argument as the “cockroach speech.”
Andres also expected the defense's argument to question the used-to-be “star witness.” He told the jurors that he wasn't asking them to like Gates, he was just asking that they weigh his testimony against the evidence he provided. Meanwhile, the investigation of the larger issue with Trump continues, but thanks to Gates, Mueller may have more information.
UPDATE: Manafort's defense has completed its arguments, and Ken White nailed part of it. Here is a summary from Politico's Kyle Cheney of the rest of the case they presented to the jury one last time.