Is there anyone who has a worse job, or has ever had a worse day on the job, than Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Following the handing down of indictments and subsequent arrest of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his business associate who stayed on at the Trump campaign following Manafort’s firing, Rick Gates, and a guilty plea by foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadapolous, Monday’s White House press briefing was sure to be a tough one to spin, even for Sanders.
Sarah answered questions about the White House reaction to the indictments and Papadapolous’s guilty plea.
‘Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president…the real collusion has to do with Clinton…it has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign…Most of these took place well before the [Trump] campaign.’
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: “Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president" https://t.co/qm9h5y0ccU
— Hardball (@hardball) October 30, 2017
When Sanders was asked about her previous assertion that Mueller was wrapping up the investigation, which she told reporters just days before the first indictments were handed down, Sanders doubled down on the claim.
‘We still expect this to conclude soon…I still contend that we believe that.’
Q: "Do you still believe Mueller is in the process of wrapping up investigation?"
Sanders: "We still expect this to conclude soon, yes." pic.twitter.com/HW83me4YiR
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 30, 2017
One reporter reminded Sanders that, despite Trump’s insistence that he had a very “limited role” in the campaign, Manafort was high-ranking as campaign chair. Sanders told reporters that the president has had no conversation with Manafort since February “as far as we know.”
RT CNN "Sarah Sanders says President Trump and Paul Manafort have not spoken in “several months” … https://t.co/3twoNO0iyD"
— wu！ (@h8LJsZGUHuX7CRs) October 30, 2017
Despite numerous questions about the president’s regret in hiring Manafort after his promises to hire “the best people, Sanders seemed to grow flustered as she tried again to distance Trump from the indictments, then shifted to defending the hiring of Manafort.
‘We’re not worried because it has nothing to do with the campaign…you make it sound like they were regular offenders.’
Sanders was also asked how a campaign volunteer [Papadapolous], who admittedly passed on a request from Russian government officials for a meeting with Trump or anyone associated with Trump’s campaign ended up in a photograph meeting with the president, and how his actions were not anything but collusion.
‘The president has thousands of photographs with millions of people…this individual was a member of a volunteer committee…not paid by the campaign. He was a volunteer on a council that met once…Actions he took would have been on his own…[Trump] doesn’t remember those comments.’
Sanders, of course, continued to try to shift focus from Trump to Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the funding of the now-infamous dossier by Fusion GPS.
‘There are enough reports and information out there that suggests [investigating Clinton] wouldn’t be a bad idea…There is clear evidence that the Clinton campaign colluded with Russia to smear the president.’
When asked how those comments are reconciled with the meeting between Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, the now-indicted Paul Manafort, and Russian government officials, Sanders downplayed it as best she could.
‘They took one meeting. Nothing came of it…the big difference is one meeting compared to millions of dollars…they exchanged money for damaging information. [Trump campaign] just took a meeting.’
Overall, it was an impressive tap dance by the White House press secretary with little substance and childish denials. Trump’s campaign apparently had nothing to do with Trump, who simply took meetings and made campaign rally appearances.
Everything about Hillary Clinton, though, is extremely important. It’s the same “whataboutism” rhetoric, just a different day.
For the full broadcast of the press briefing, see below:
Featured image screengrab via YouTube