WASHINGTON — It’s becoming harder for President Donald Trump to speak dismissively of the Russia investigation now that his former campaign chief is under house arrest and a one-time aide has pleaded guilty to lying about his Russian interactions. But he’s still trying.
A look at statements by Trump and spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday, when criminal charges were unsealed against Paul Manafort and his business associate and a guilty plea by campaign adviser George Papadopoulos from earlier this month was revealed:
TRUMP tweet: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”
THE FACTS: Not true, according to the indictment.
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Manafort and his associate Rick Gates are charged with criminal activities that go back to 2006 but extend to February of this year. The charges do not refer to Manafort’s activities with the campaign but rather accuse him of laundering money and conspiratorial acts before, during and after he was campaign chairman.
Manafort and Gates face 12 counts, which do deal largely with activities from 2006 to 2015, before Manafort joined the campaign in March 2016.
But both are charged with conspiring together and with others to knowingly and intentionally defraud and commit crimes against the U.S. from 2006 to this year.
And both are charged with conspiring together to make false statements and conceal crimes against the U.S., and to causing others to do so, from November 2016 to February 2017.
The indictment alleges that Manafort and Gates acted as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russia leader, government and party from 2006 to 2015. The indictment says that “from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT and GATES laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.”
Manafort was hired in late March 2016 as the campaign’s manager for the Republican convention in July. He was promoted to campaign chairman in mid-May, after he had essentially assumed control, and then was pushed out Aug. 19 when questions intensified about his lobbying for Ukraine interests.
This indictment is the first to emerge from the broad investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It does not go to the heart of that matter.
SANDERS: “Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.” — briefing Monday
THE FACTS: It’s true that Trump himself isn’t wrapped up in the charges, but a campaign adviser is.
Papadopoulos, who advised the campaign on foreign policy, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian professor who has close ties to the Russian government.
Papadopoulos had told the FBI that his interactions with the professor, who promised “dirt” on Trump’s presidential rival Hillary Clinton, came before he joined the campaign. In fact, Papadopoulos was already an adviser to the Trump campaign when he met the professor in mid-March 2016 and interacted with him after, according to the court statement unsealed Monday.
That was the first criminal count that cites interactions between someone attached to the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries.
Sanders said Papadopoulos’ work for the campaign was “extremely limited. It was a volunteer position.”
Yet investigators said in the document that his position was significant to those who wanted to pass on information helpful to the campaign. The allegations unsealed Monday in connection with the former adviser’s guilty plea state “the professor only took interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS because of his status with the Campaign.”
Sanders also said a campaign foreign policy advisory group, to which Papadopoulos was named, only met once. But AP confirmed the group held multiple meetings, at least two of them with Papadopoulos in attendance.
SANDERS: “What the Clinton campaign did, what the DNC did was actually exchange money …. actually paying money for false information.” — briefing
THE FACTS: She is right that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party hired a firm that came up with sensational allegations about Trump’s connections to Russia. The material is unverified. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false.
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report from New York.
Find AP Fact Checks at https://apnews.com/tag/APFactCheck