Trump on Manafort indictment: 'This is years ago'

President Trump on Monday insisted his team did not collude with Russia, adding that alleged crimes committed by former campaign chairman Paul Manafort occurred “years ago.”

In a pair of tweets, the president said the charges against his ex-campaign chief were related to his actions before he “was part of the Trump campaign” and asked “why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????"

"Also, there is NO COLLUSION!" he tweeted. 

 

The tweets were Trump’s first response to the charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller, a significant escalation of the Russia probe that has cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency. 

Manafort was charged with 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering related to his work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. His longtime deputy, Rick Gates, was charged as well.

The indictment did not include any references to the Trump, the campaign or collusion.

But the special prosector accused Manafort of trying to hide his work in Ukraine 
— and millions of dollars in payments from it— from around 2006 to 2017. That undercuts Trump's claim the charges stemmed from actions that only occurred "years ago."

Many believe Mueller could use the charges to try and pry information from Manafort about whether the campaign colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election. 

Trump allies and lawyers have expressed confidence Manafort will not reveal damaging information about Trump or his team in a deal with prosecutors.

The president, however, has not responded to a guilty plea unsealed Monday made by former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. 

The 30-year-old aide pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his interactions with Russians.

A professor with close ties to the Russian government allegedly told Papadopoulos he could deliver "dirt" on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE gleaned from her emails. 

The allegations are the clearest evidence yet of a connection between the Trump campaign and Moscow's effort to interfere in last year's election.

Rebecca Savransky contributed

- This report was updated at 10:48 a.m.