Paul Manafort's Lavish Lifestyle Highlighted in Courtroom

Paul Manafort's Lavish Lifestyle Highlighted in Courtroom

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort personally directed millions of dollars in worldwide wire transfers to pay for high-end suits and more than $3 million in improvements at his various houses, witnesses testified Wednesday on the second day of his financial fraud trial.

Judge T.S. Ellis was not a fan of the prosecution's focus on Manafort's lavish lifestyle, and would often cut off questioning if it delved too into the details of the luxury items Manafort was purchasing, allegedly with income he failed to disclose on federal forms and money he wired from foreign bank counts that he didn't report to the US government.

Manafort's attorneys are putting the blame for any illegal activity on his business associate, Rick Gates.

"Not tax, not banking law", said Uzo Asonye, a member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team looking at possible collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign in 2016.

Manafort, he said, always paid via wire transfer from banks in Cyprus, which is where prosecutors say Manafort hid loads of cash he made in Ukraine. A judge jailed Manafort in June over allegations of witness tampering as he awaited trial. He was Manafort's top client until he was removed from power and fled to Russian Federation in 2014. "It's a lot, and Paul Manafort trusted that Rick Gates was keeping track of it", Zehnle said.

Special Agent Matthew Mikuska told jurors on Wednesday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation knocked multiple times on the door of Manafort's condo before entering with a key after no one answered. Prosecutors plan to present evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a job on the campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration.

One witness, Maximillian Katzman, said Manafort was one of the best customers at the luxury menswear boutique where he used to work in Midtown Manahattan.

"Rick Gates had his hands in the cookie jar and he didn't want his boss to find out", defense lawyer Thomas Zehnle told the court during his opening statement on Tuesday, accusing Gates of being "willing to say anything to save himself". He said that arrangement was not Manafort's doing but was instead the preferred method of payment of the supporters of the pro-Russia Ukrainian political party who were paying his consulting fees.

"In these kinds of cases, the star witnesses are really the documents", the former DOJ prosecutor said.

The details of the trial were largely overshadowed by Trump's call on Wednesday for an end to Mueller's probe, leading some Democrats to repeat accusations that the president is obstructing of justice.

Defense lawyers also sought to address head-on Manafort's wealth and the images of a gaudy lifestyle that jurors are expected to see.

Prosecutors made no reference to Trump in their opening statement nor discussed in any way Manafort's leadership of the Trump campaign, or the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Russian Federation and the president's associates.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

The judge's testiness also revealed itself when he complained about the unpronounceable names on the suits Manafort wore-"If it doesn't say Men's Wearhouse, I don't buy it."-and when he reprimanded attorneys for rollings their eyes at him".

Manafort has a second trial scheduled for September in the District of Columbia.

The judge has warned prosecutors not to inject Russian matters into the case, and on Wednesday morning instructed them not to use the word "oligarch" when describing some of the people connected to the case.

"Perhaps he believes that he's done nothing wrong, and because he's done nothing wrong, he's unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever - even if it's a lesser crime", said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor.