Trump responds to Manafort charges by attacking 'Crooked Hillary'

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump tried to distance himself from the news Monday that Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a dozen charges, including conspiracy against the United States.

Trump argued that the spotlight should be on Hillary Clinton, the campaign foe he vanquished almost a year ago.

“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” Trump tweeted. “But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”

Trump added: “Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Manafort and Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner, were charged with 12 counts — including conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion — over the period from 2005 through 2017. Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was installed as chairman in June of that year after Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Manafort and Gates each pleaded not guilty to all of the charges on Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced on Monday that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty this month to making false statements to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians during the campaign. According to documents released Monday by Mueller’s office, Papadopoulos was arrested in July and cooperated with federal officials in their investigation.

The charges are the first brought by Mueller since he was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Related: Read all of the charges against Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos

At the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders sought to distance Trump from Papadopoulos, describing the former adviser’s role in the campaign as “extremely limited.” Sanders also dismissed a March 2016 “national security meeting” in Washington, D.C., where federal officials say Papadopoulos introduced himself to the group and said he could “help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”

Sanders said that she doubts Trump would remember that exchange and added that the campaign’s national security team met just once.

In an interview with CNN, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, said that the charges against Manafort and Gates relate to “business activities — not campaign activities.”

Sekulow also claimed that the Trump team is not worried that Papadopoulos is cooperating with federal investigators.

“I’m not concerned about this at all, and no one else is either,” Sekulow said.

On Sunday, Trump fired off a series of tweets decrying the probe while insisting Republicans are united in drawing Clinton into it.

“The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s are now fighting back like never before,” the president wrote. “There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!” he wrote.

Read more from Yahoo News: