“Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the President, has nothing to do with the President’s campaign or campaign activity,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Hope Sanders insisted stoutly during today’s press briefing.
“The real collusion scandal, as we have said several times before, has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Russia,” Sanders told a packed briefing room. “There is clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence to spread disinformation” she said. “We have been saying from Day 1 there is no evidence of Trump/Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all.”
Sanders dismissive remarks mirror President Donald Trump’s morning tweets on same topic. In those tweets, Trump responded to indictments and guilty plea saying “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” “Why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” – and “also, there is NO COLLUSION!”
Sanders’ briefing started late, fueling speculation it had been re-timed so as to provide bright shiny light-ness while President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates were in court pleading not-guilty to charges resulting from Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian presidential-election meddling. Those indictments allege financial crimes dating back to before Trump’s candidacy.
During her briefing, Sanders also dismissed George Papadopoulos as a low-level volunteer of no consequence who was not in on important campaign meetings. She got asked about him because of toay’s other big This Day In Donald Trump headline: the former Trump campaign policy adviser had secretly pleaded guilty weeks ago to making false statements to the FBI.
Her dismissal of Papadopoulos, as a person of no importance, may come as news to Trump who, during his campaign, was asked by WaPo’s editorial board, in an interview, who was advising him on foreign affairs, where he was considered especially weak. Papadopoulos’ name topped his list.
In March 2016, WaPo reported, Papadopoulos worked to set up a meeting with Russian honchos and Trump’s campaign, sending an email to the foreign policy team. Papadopoulos promised a meeting with Russian bigwigs, including Putin. Papadopoulos tried to set up six meetings between Russian officials and Team Trump from March to September of 2016, WaPo reported.
News of a deal struck between Papadopoulos and Mueller’s camp, in which he pled guilty three weeks ago to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians, was unveiled soon after indictments were unsealed against Manafort and Gates.
Papadopoulos, who spent 11 months on Team Trump, was arrested in July 2017, pleading guilty on October 5.
In a line sure to have been much mulled by White House staffers, his plea agreement says the government will inform the sentencing judge of his “efforts to cooperate with the Government, on the condition” that he “continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant.”