One day after surprising the judge by suggesting the prosecution’s star witness “may not” take the stand, an attorney with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team pivoted Thursday, announcing it has “every intention” of having Paul Manafort’s former business partner Rick Gates testify.
Defense attorneys representing Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who’s charged with evading taxes on more than $60 million of income earned working for Ukrainian politicians, accused Gates of being responsible for perpetrating Manafort’s alleged crimes in opening statements on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Uzo Asonye, an attorney with the special counsel, suggested that the prosecution might opt to not call Gates to the stand. But by Thursday morning, another special counsel prosecutor told jurors they will, in all likelihood, hear from Gates during his former boss’ trial.
“We have every intention to call him as a witness,” special counsel prosecutor Greg Andres said in court Thursday morning, referring to Gates.
Gates, a longtime Manafort deputy who also worked in a senior role in the Trump campaign, had initially been charged alongside Manafort, but in February announced he would plead guilty to charges of conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal authorities. Since then, Gates has since cooperated with the special counsel as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling. He has not yet been sentenced.
Mueller’s prosecutors named Gates on their list of potential witnesses ahead of Manafort’s trial, indicating he was expected to play a central role in the prosecutor’s case against his former boss.
Manafort’s alleged crimes occurred before Manafort’s time on the Trump campaign. While the special counsel’s mandate is to investigate possible foreign interference in the 2016 elections, Mueller was given latitude to pursue other potential crimes that arose during the course of his investigation.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.