US President Donald Trump has distanced himself from his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort who was indicted with conspiracy against the United State and other charges as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Shortly after the indictment was announced on Monday, the president took to Twitter to say the charges belonged to misdeeds that happened “years ago.” Trump also denied that there was any collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
The president also tried to deflect attention by asking why Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival in last year’s election, and other Democrats were not the focus of the Russia inquiry.
“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” he tweeted.
“Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” the president added.
Manafort, 68, arrived at the FBI’s Washington field office on Monday morning and surrendered to federal law enforcement authorities.
Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates are facing a total of 12 charges, which also include conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading statements and violating federal lobbying and banking laws.
The charges are related to work done by Manafort and Gates on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
Trump and his legal team have tried to discredit Mueller and his investigation about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
‘Charges have nothing to do with Trump’
The White House said Monday that the charges against the two former campaign officials were not connected to Trump’s campaign or his presidency.
The charges had “nothing to do with the president, nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity” and proves there is “no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion,” said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Sanders also said there is “no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel” when asked about the possibility of Mueller being fired.
“We have been saying from Day 1 there has been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing from the indictment today changes that at all,” she said.
Democrats warn Trump against meddling
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer warned the president not to interfere with the Russia investigation after Manafort was indicted.
“The president must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way. If he does so, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues,” Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a statement.
Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also called on Congress to take steps to protect the “independence of the special counsel.”
“Members of Congress … must also make clear to the president that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress,” Warner added.
Another senior Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Judiciary Committee, said she would “continue to support Bob Mueller as he follows the facts — his independence must remain sacrosanct.”
“Congress must get to the bottom of possible obstruction of justice and collusion as well as Russia’s interference with our democratic institutions,” Feinstein said.
In addition to Mueller’s investigation, several congressional panels, including the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, are looking into allegation of Russia’s interference.