WHITE HOUSE —
“There is NO COLLUSION!” tweeted President Donald Trump shortly after his former campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted as part of a special counsel's probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
The president fired off a pair of Monday morning Twitter posts within hours after news broke that Manafort and a longtime associate were indicted five months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller began investigating Russian interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election.
The indictments unsealed Monday charge Manafort and colleague Richard Gates with multiple counts of tax evasion, money laundering and conspiracy against the United States.
Trump’s initial tweet noted that the allegations contained in the indictment involve activities before Manafort was briefly the head of Trump’s campaign last year. It also points an accusative finger at Trump’s opponent in the election, Hillary Clinton, asking “Why aren’t Crooked Hillary and the Dems in the focus????”
As anticipation and speculation raged Sunday about the content of the indictments, Trump used his Twitter account extensively to ridicule the idea that his campaign had colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the election, and to express frustration that news headlines were focusing on the pending Mueller probe indictments and less on investigations into allegations against his perceived enemies and political opponents.
"The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's [Republicans] are now fighting back like never before," Trump wrote. "There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!"
He went on to say that the Russia investigations had diverted public attention from Republican efforts on tax reform. "Is this coincidental? NOT!" Trump said.
Ty Cobb, a member of Trump's legal team, said in a statement that Trump's comments were not related to the developments in Mueller's investigation.
"Contrary to what many have suggested, the President’s comments today are unrelated to the activities of the Special Counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate," Cobb said.
The White House did not immediately respond to VOA’s request for comment on the allegations contained in the indictments. But CNN quoted an unidentified White House source as saying “These guys were bad guys when they started, they were bad guys when they left. This has nothing to do with Russia.”
Various sources have been quoted as saying the president has been briefed fully on the indictments. He has several meetings with top administration officials on his schedule today, including Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders faced a barrage of questions during her regular daily news briefing in the afternoon. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is slated to make an appearance on Fox News this evening.