Rick Gates testified he and Paul Manafort knowingly committed crimes

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The fraud trail of Donald Trump's ex-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has reached a crucial moment this week, as Manafort's former deputy, Rick Gates, begins his court testimony.

Gates - who served on the 2016 Trump presidential campaign with Mr Manafort - told the court he had stolen from other employers, too.

Gates walked into a packed courtroom a day after he calmly acknowledged having embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort and said the two had committed crimes together by stashing money in foreign bank accounts and falsifying bank loan documents. They also failed to register Manafort as a foreign agent, Gates said.

Speaking at Manafort's trial late that afternoon, Gates bluntly answered the prosecutor's questions.

Manafort's defense has sought to blame Gates for any illegal conduct and accused him of embezzling millions of dollars.

Manafort's political activities were not limited to the U.S.by any means: government prosecutors are alleging that he evaded taxes on $15 million worth of income earned while promoting former Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

He has also told jurors that he and Manafort knew they were committing crimes for years as part of the offshore payment structure.

On the witness stand Monday, Gates spoke about how he broke the law with Manafort, including by providing false and doctored documents to banks in an effort to inflate Manafort's income to qualify him for loans.

There was no mention of President Trump or his campaign, but this trial is the first big public test for the special counsel.

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Manafort, a veteran lobbyist, has tried to get the financial charges against him dismissed and arguing that Mr Mueller has a "blank check" that he "has cashed, repeatedly". And there was a reason why prosecutors wanted Gates to paint himself in such a negative light on the witness stand: they wanted to get everything out in the open and demonstrate that at this point, Gates is hiding nothing and is coming clean about his crimes.

But Tuesday, Manafort did not stare Gates down.

In questioning Laporta on Monday, a prosecutor asked her about a $10 million (£7.72 million) loan purportedly received by Manafort from Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska in 2006.

Since the trial started before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis last Tuesday, Manafort's lawyers have kept their cross-examinations brief and at times refrained from attempting to rebut damaging testimony in detail.

The courtroom testimony brought Gates face-to-face with Manafort, his longtime boss and fellow Trump campaign aide, for the first time since his plea deal.

Kevin Downing, the lead attorney on Manafort's defense team, tried to chip away at Gates' credibility Monday as he cross-examined Laporta, an accountant for the CPA firm KWC, who prepared Manafort's taxes in 2014 and 2015.

On Friday, a tax preparer named Cindy Laporta admitted that she helped disguise $900,000 in foreign income as a loan in order to reduce Manafort's tax burden.

Prosecutor Greg Andres pointed out that he had created a "loan forgiveness letter between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Manafort".

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