This week, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for federal financial crimes which a jury found him guilty of last year — and President Donald Trump is feeling the heat. This Friday outside the White House before departing to visit areas affected by deadly tornadoes in Alabama, he used the opportunity of Manafort’s sentencing to launch into a rambling rant about his supposed innocence in the Russia scandal, getting some basic facts wrong along the way.
‘I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it’s been a very very tough time for him, but if you notice, both his lawyer — a very highly respected man — and a very highly respected judge, the judge said there was no collusion with Russia. This had nothing to do with collusion. There was no collusion. It’s a collusion hoax — it’s a collusion witch hoax. I don’t collude with Russia.’
It’s worth noting at the outset that Manafort and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen have both been documented as guilty of federal crimes, but Trump has dismissed Cohen as a “rat” and a liar, while he has repeatedly embraced Manafort. The difference is that Cohen has sought to cooperate with investigators from Congress to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, while according to prosecutors, Manafort has given up no worthwhile new information and instead simply stuck to lying during his own attempt at “cooperation.” Trump’s that blatant in his bias.
Although Trump somewhat technically accurately noted the conversation about Manafort’s case having “nothing to do with collusion,” in reality, Judge T.S. Ellis — who sentenced Manafort this week — did not declare there was “no collusion with Russia.” In fact, he simply took care to note that Manafort’s conviction and subsequent sentencing did themselves not cover the question of collusion, which remains out there and open. Manafort has come down under the weight of a years-long secretive effort to lobby for the now defunct, violent, Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych that involved him hiding millions of dollars.
Although that scheme was the focus of his trial and — as Ellis accurately noted — not possible Trump team collusion with Russia, Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing took to cameras after the sentencing to proclaim his client’s innocence of collusion allegations anyway.
‘Most importantly what you saw today… [is that] there is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia.’
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) suggested the comments amounted to an implicit plea for a pardon from the president — and his commentary outside the White House this week indicates he was most certainly listening.
Ironically though, Downing didn’t say there was “no collusion” either, although Trump explicitly asserted as much. Downing simply claimed that his client had not been involved in any collusion — although there does remain ample evidence of secretive Trump team interactions with key Russian officials and individuals, making the case remain not as clear-cut as the president and his allies would like.
Featured Image via screenshot from the video