Prosecutors: Paul Manafort believed he was above the law

Tad Devine in New York in 2016. He was chief political strategist for Sen. Bernie Sanders, during the 2016 presidential race

Tad Devine in New York in 2016. He was chief political strategist for Sen. Bernie Sanders, during the 2016 presidential race

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud related to his lobbying activities on behalf of the former Russian-backed government of Ukraine.

Prosecutors portrayed U.S. President Donald Trump's onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort as a tax cheat who used offshore accounts to hide tens of millions of dollars from political work in Ukraine, as the first trial from a probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election got off to a quick start on Tuesday.

Asonye said Manafort created "bogus" loans, falsified documents and lied to his tax preparer and bookkeeper to hide the money, which he obtained from Ukrainian oligarchs through a series of shell company transfers and later from fraudulently obtained bank loans in the U.S.

Prosecutors also accuse him of lying to USA banks to obtain real estate loans in a bid to maintain a lavish lifestyle after his client, former pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, fell from power in 2014 and the money stopped.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that Manafort's lavish spending on suits, homes and luxury items did not match the income declared on his tax returns and that he misled lenders when he borrowed tens of millions of dollars against NY real estate.

Manafort spent more than $100,000 at the store in 2010, and more than $444,000 in 2013, according to Katzman. He says agents spotted Manafort inside after they entered. Four alternate jurors, three women and one man, also were chosen. Trump has tried to distance himself from Manafort, saying the former chairman "worked with me, what, for 49 days or something?"

While Trump has repeatedly railed against Manafort and the "witch hunt" on Twitter in recent weeks, he has not tweeted about Manafort specifically in more than a month. He said June 15 that Manafort received a "tough sentence" after his bond was revoked over allegations of witness tampering.

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 USA and lying to federal authorities.

Manafort appears likely to remain in jail throughout his trial after a federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected his request to overturn a lower court's decision to send him to jail before trial.

Testimony is expected to continue after the morning recess.

Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III said the term was "pejorative" and carried criminal connotations that suggested Paul Manafort "associated with despicable people, and therefore he is despicable". Asonye said the evidence would show he lied to the Internal Revenue Service.

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.

None of the 18 counts against Manafort deal with collusion or conspiracy with a foreign nation, and the word Russian Federation has not been mentioned through the trial's first two days. The second trial, scheduled for September in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests.

Three other former Trump aides, including Gates, have already pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller's probe. Three Russian companies have also been charged.

Rick Gates, business associate of Paul Manafort, departs Federal District Court, Feb. 14, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

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