President Donald Trump and members of his inner circle on Monday were quick to distance the President from news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had surrendered to the FBI for charges related to money laundering, among other alleged offenses.
Those efforts to disassociate the President from the first arrests of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe quickly proved futile.
Just minutes after the President sounded off on Twitter to say the Manafort charges had nothing to do with him, and Trump’s former campaign manager defended him on television, court documents from a separate case were unsealed. Those documents revealed that a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser had pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
Just before 10:30 a.m. ET, Trump tweeted that the charges against Manafort stem from alleged bad deeds that occurred “years ago” and were therefore not the President’s problem. The indictment against Manafort indicates the alleged misconduct spanned from 2006 to 2017.
Trump then quickly switched the focus back to “crooked Hillary and the Dems,” proclaiming there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government to influence the election, issues that have been the focus of special counsel Mueller’s wide-ranging probe.
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was one of the first Trump loyalists to appear on cable news to defend the President.
He was quick to shift blame away from his former boss, claiming during an interview with Fox Business that there is a “problem with the FBI” because the agency didn’t notify the campaign that Manafort was under a FISA warrant “before coming to the Trump campaign.”
He then echoed comments made by sources close to the White House early Monday that Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates — who was also named in the indictment — were “bad guys when they started. They were bad guys when they left. The indictment has nothing to do with any relationship with Russia.”
“Look, if Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are guilty of tax evasion, money laundering, or hiding their accounts in Cyprus, or whatever it is, they should absolutely be held accountable. But they should be held accountable independent of the President, because the President had nothing to do with coordination, collusion or cooperation with Russia, nobody at the campaign did that I’m aware of,” Lewandowski said.
News of the separate case, that the Trump campaign’s foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the federal agents, broke not long after Trump’s initial tweets.
Papadopoul0s admitted earlier this month that he lied to FBI agents in January about his contact with a professor whom he knew had substantial Kremlin connections. According to the court documents, Papadopoulos said he met with the professor just days before joining the Trump campaign.
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