The judge in Paul Manafort's trial told prosecutors Wednesday not to use the word "oligarchs" to describe wealthy Ukrainians who paid millions to the former Trump campaign chairman, the AP reports. US District Judge T.S. Ellis III told attorneys for special counsel Robert Mueller that the term "oligarchs" has a pejorative meaning and using it is not relevant to the fraud and tax charges against Manafort. He cautioned them that the term could imply that Manafort was associating with "despicable people and therefore he's despicable," adding, "That's not the American way." The proceedings kept the attention of President Trump, who defended his 2016 hiring of Manafort. "Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders. He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!"
Prosecutor Uzo Asonye said in his opening statement Tuesday that Manafort considered himself above the law as he funneled tens of millions of dollars through offshore accounts to evade US tax and banking laws. That "secret income" was used to pay for personal luxuries, including clothes and real estate. Manafort attorney Thomas Zehnle said his client relied on a team of financial experts to keep track of the millions of dollars he earned from his Ukrainian political work and to ensure that that money was being properly reported. He especially trusted business associate Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in Mueller's investigation and is now the government's star witness. But that trust was misplaced, Zehnle said. "Money's coming in fast. It's a lot, and Paul Manafort trusted that Rick Gates was keeping track of it," he said. Mueller was not present in the courtroom, and prosecutors did not once mention the broader and ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian election interference or Manafort's work for the Trump campaign. (These words are also banned.)