According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Monday’s announcement of indictments against former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, “has nothing to do with the President, has nothing to do with the President’s campaign or campaign activity.” Batting away reporters questions at the press conference, Sanders insisted, “The real collusion scandal, as we have said several times before, has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Russia.”

She told the crowded White House briefing room, “There is clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence to spread disinformation and smear the President to influence the election. 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.”

President Donald Trump himself tweeted remarks on Monday dismissing the indictments. Trump wrote: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,”  “Why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” – and “also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Sanders also reiterated that there are currently no plans to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who is leading the investigation into alleged collusion between Russian interests and the Trump campaign. During the briefing, Sanders also dismissed George Papadopoulos -- a former Trump campaign figure -- as a low-level volunteer who did not participate in important campaign meetings. It was revealed on Monday that Papadopoulos had secretly pleaded guilty two weeks ago to charges he had made false statements to the FBI.

Manfort and Gates pleaded not guilty to their charges on Monday.

Papadopoulos (30) advised the Trump campaign on foreign affairs. In March 2016, he set up a meetings with Russians and Trump campaign officials from March to September of 2016. He pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his Kremlin contacts on October 5, having been arrested in July. In his plea agreement, the government acknowledges his “efforts to cooperate with the Government, on the condition” that Papadopoulos “continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant.”

See press conference below at 1:09.32



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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