President Donald Trump, arriving in Charleston, WV, to lead a campaign rally, refused to take questions from reporters about his former fixer Michael Cohen as he de-planed. But he was effusive in praise of former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Trump’s trip to West Virginia came at the end of a breathtakingly bad day for the president. Shortly before his plane touched down in Charleston, Cohen addressed a judge at federal court in New York, walking through how he committed eight counts of tax evasion on personal income taxes, giving false statements to a bank, and how he violated campaign finance laws at the direction of a “candidate” for “federal office.”
Almost simultaneously, across the Potomac in Alexandria, VA, Manafort was convicted of eight felony counts of bank and tax fraud, though a mistrial was declared on 10 more. He could spend the rest of his life in jail. The White House had hoped Manafort would be acquitted on all and use it to pound Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia election tampering probe – “the Rigged Witch Hunt” as Trump calls it.
“Paul Manafort is a good man. He was with Ronald Reagan,” Trump told reporters a he got off his plane. “He was with a lot of different people over the years. I feel very sad about that. It doesn’t involve me, but I still feel – you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened.”
Trump, who has played coy whenever asked about the possibility of a pardon for Manafort, again complained that Mueller was supposed to be investigating Russian election tampering – similar to how Special Counsel Ken Starr was seated to investigate President Bill Clinton’s involvement Whitewater, not Monica Lewinsky. He was impeached for the latter case.
“This has nothing to do with Russian collusion,” Trump blasted. “This started as Russian collusion; this has absolutely nothing to do – this is a witch hunt, and it’s a disgrace. … They started out, looking for Russians involved in our campaign. There were none.
“It was not the original mission, believe me. It was, uh, it was something very much different. So, it had nothing to do with Russian collusion. We continue the witch hunt. Thank you very much.”