Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s will most likely not flip against President Donald Trump despite efforts to squeeze testimony from him, including calling his business partner Rick Gates to offer testimony in his federal trial in Virginia, Judge Andrew Napolitano said Thursday.
“Manafort has basically said through his lawyers, ‘you guys have indicted me three times,'” Napolitano told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”
“‘I got two trials. I have been living in solitary confinement for two months. Nothing will break me because I have nothing to give you. That’s the message that we’re getting this week.”
Manafort’s trial on tax fraud, bank fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts began this week, and he has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
His former business partner Rick Gates, who served as deputy campaign manager while Manafort ran President Donald Trump’s campaign briefly in 2016, has already pleaded guilty to making false statements.
He had been expected to be a star government witness, but prosecutor Uzo Asonye, a day after the defense made it clear that its strategy centers on discrediting Gates as an embezzler, said Gates may or may not testify after all.
“This shows how the government can use witnesses who flip, by providing them with information in secret,” said Napolitano. “By telling this stuff to the grand jury but by not putting him on the witness stand because it may open up a can of worms.”
However, the move may also force Manafort’s lawyers to call Gates to the witness stand, “if they want to say you are the guy who pulled all these tricks against the IRS.”
“It tells me they wanted Gates to pressure Manafort to flip somehow,” said show co-host Brian Kilmeade, to which Napolitano responded “precisely.”
Napolitano also commented on the efforts by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to present evidence about his lavish lifestyle, noting that Judge T.S. Ellis told the attorneys to move on.
“I think judges and sometimes juries get a little frustrated when prosecutors try to demonize the defendant before they present any evidence against him,” said Napolitano. “The fact that he bought $10,000 business suits is lavish, but it is not a crime. They have been doing that for three or four days.
“Their theory was this was an ill-gotten gain that bypassed the IRS and this is what he spent it on. If it’s ill-gotten gain and bypassed the IRS it doesn’t matter what he spent it on. They will eventually get to that I think today or tomorrow or certainly by next week.”
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