In spite of Judge T.S. Ellis' efforts to squash prosecutors' attempts to illustrate Paul Manafort's lavish lifestyle, prosecutors managed to get some licks in today.
Probably the most damaging testimony was the same testimony Judge Ellis tried to minimize -- the expenditure of over $1 million on pricey suits, paid for by international wire transfer from an account in Cyprus. The prosecution contends that this account was used to finance Manafort's lifestyle while he did not pay taxes on the funds he transferred.
Maximilliam Katzman told the jury Wednesday that Paul Manafort was the only client of high-end men's boutique Alan Couture to pay with international wire transfers.
Katzman confirmed documents that show incoming international wire transfers from Manafort's companies for thousands of dollars worth of clothing. The clothing was custom made for Manafort.
In one email, Manafort wrote to the clothing boutique, "You will be receiving an email for the amount due from Leviathan," his foreign shell company.
During his testimony, Katzman, who was manager at his father's store Alan Couture, described several invoices for Manafort:
- Manafort bought four suits and two trousers for $15,195, according to one invoice, for instance, Katzman said.
- In total, Manafort spent on average $100,000 with the store every year from 2010 to 2012. In 2013, Manafort spent $443,160 at the store, Katzman said.
At one point, Judge Ellis admonished the prosecutors for using the term "oligarchs," suggesting they use the term "funders" instead.
Other testimony came from Manafort's neighbor, who handled the purchase of a home for his daughter Andrea. Funding for the purchase apparently also came through a shell corporation with funds transferred from the same Cyprus account. Also a Mercedes dealer was called to testify for his payment as an international wire transfer.
In addition, a contractor for Manafort who completed home improvement projects on his various homes (including Trump Tower) testified that he, too, was always paid by wire transfer through shell corporations.
According to reports, prosecutors are opening their questioning of each witness by asking them if they know Rick Gates. Answers so far have ranged from "No," to "From the news." Clearly the prosecutors are undermining the defense case where Manafort blames everything on Gates.
The spin we're hearing today is about the judge and how the judge is chewing out the prosecutors. This judge is an equal opportunity chewer -- he will spend as much time hammering the defense during their case as he is the prosecution now.
This is a pretty easy case: Did Paul Manafort perjure himself when he signed his tax returns? And was that perjury a failure to report and pay tax on income earned in Ukraine? Those are the questions, and the prosecutors are answering them in the affirmative thus far.
Prosecutors are saying they expect to rest their case next week.
Meanwhile, something appears to have Trump on edge. Is it this trial, or Rudy's admission that there was a planning meeting in advance of the Trump Tower meeting with Russians, or something else?
I guess we'll find out soon enough.