Rick Gates frequently used the phrases ‘It’s possible’ and ‘I don’t recall’ as Downing challenged him about inconsistencies in testimony he gave to the special counsel’s office.

A former campaign aide to Donald Trump lived a “secret life” including an extramarital affair in London, a court heard on Tuesday.

Rick Gates, under cross examination at the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of his former boss Paul Manafort, admitted that he had “another relationship” involving first-class flights and luxury hotels, but denied these were funded with money embezzled from Manafort.

Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. His defence team is seeking to pin the blame on Gates, who they say was responsible for day-to-day operations of the business.

In a dramatic moment before the jury, Manafort’s defence counsel, Kevin Downing, put it to the government’s star witness: “There’s another life, right, the other Rick Gates? The secret Rick Gates?”

Gates, who is 46 and married, admitted: “There was a period in my life, about 10 years ago, when I had a relationship, yes.”

With a nod to linguistic differences for what Americans refer to as an apartment, Downing pressed: “As part of your secret life did you maintain a flat – is that what they call it? – in London?”

Gates acknowledged that he did for two months and that he took first class flights and stayed in “fancy hotels” around Europe, but said the money came from bonuses rather than illicit gains. “I had a period of time when I had another relationship,” he added.

As well as being a senior aide on Trump’s election campaign, Gates served as the deputy chairman of the US president’s inaugural committee. On Tuesday, he admitted it was possible he had sought to cheat the committee with false expenses claims.

“Did you submit personal expenses to the inaugural committee for reimbursement?” Downing asked.

Gates answered: “I don’t recall. It’s possible.”

Gates appeared nervous on the witness stand at the court in Alexandria, Virginia, blinking frequently, his throat apparently dry as he spoke. He frequently used the phrases “It’s possible” and “I don’t recall” as Downing challenged him about inconsistencies in testimony he gave to the special counsel’s office.

“When did you start providing false and misleading information to the special counsel’s office?” the defence counsel asked bluntly.

Gates struggled so badly to give a straight answer that eventually Judge T S Ellis III was forced to intervene. “Did you provide false information or did you have a bad memory?” he asked.

Gates finally admitted that he had provided false information prior to striking a plea agreement. “I did, to one count, your honour,” he said.