The trial of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign boss, began Tuesday, with the defense attempting to shift the blame to Rick Gates — one of the longtime Republican strategist's former top associates and a key witness for the prosecution.
Yet the prosecution asserted during opening arguments that Manafort "believed the law did not apply to him — not tax law, not banking law" — as he blew massive amounts of cash on real estate and pricey clothes that included a $15,000 jacket "made from an ostrich."
"He got whatever he wanted," assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
The prosecutor described how Manafort had allegedly earned a whopping $60 million by working for pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine and then stashed that cash in shell companies and offshore bank accounts.
Asonye said Manafort lived an "extravagant lifestyle," funded by the "secret income" he was generating.
When that cash flow dried up as Manafort's consulting clients lost power in Ukraine, he began duping banks about the state of his financial position in an effort to win approval for loans, the prosecutor argued.
"He created cash out of thin air," Asonye said.
He said Manafort opened more than 30 bank accounts in three countries to hide his cash. Manafort, he added, failed to report $15 million in income to the IRS from 2010 to 2014.