White House reacts to Manafort indictment, Papadopoulos guilty plea

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U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. Reuters/Kay Nietfeld,Pool

US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been indicted on felony counts, which include money laundering. Separately, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pled guilty to lying about his contacts with Russia.

Trump said Manafort’s indictment was meaningless as it involved activities unrelated to him or his campaign. On Twitter, the president reacted to indictments and the guilty plea, saying, “This is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”

White House press secretary Sarah Hope Sanders maintained on a Monday press briefing that the news has nothing to do with Trump or his campaign. “We have been saying from Day 1 there is no evidence of Trump/Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all,” Sanders said, then dismissed Papadopoulos as a low-level volunteer who was not on significant campaign meetings. She also insisted that his guilty plea has nothing to do with the activities of the Trump campaign.

Papadopoulos was part of Team Trump for almost a year. He was arrested earlier this year and pleaded guilty on October 5.

Manafort’s indictment

The charges against Manafort and a business partner named Rick Gates generally fall into three categories: financial crimes, failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of foreign entities and making false statements. According to the indictment, they did not register with the US attorney general as agents working on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine from roughly 2008 through 2014.

Manafort and Gates were charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA. The law was passed by the Congress in 1938.

Papadopoulos’ guilty plea

Papadopoulos, on the other hand, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI. The court filing states that Papadopoulos falsely told the FBI that he was not part of Trump’s campaign when an "overseas professor" told him that Russians possessed "dirt" on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

He also falsely downplayed the importance of his interactions with the professor. Papadopoulos previously told the FBI that he thought the professor was "just a guy talk(ing) up connections or something.

Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham Law School, said there is no direct proof of collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the Manafort and Gates indictment. As for Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, he said it contains "all kinds of tea leaves and hints about what’s coming next," Politi Fact reports.