Administration

Trump on Manafort verdict: 'Nothing to do with Russia collusion'

President Trump on Tuesday sought to distance himself from his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort's criminal conviction, saying it did not involve his presidential bid.

"This has nothing to do with Russian collusion," Trump told reporters in West Virginia, where is he scheduled to hold a campaign rally. "It's a witch hunt and a disgrace."

 

The president said he feels "very badly" about Manafort's conviction and called him a "good person." But he also stressed that the crimes Manafort was found guilty of committing were not related to his work on the Trump campaign.

"Doesn't involve me but I still feel, you know, it's a very sad thing that happened," Trump said."This has nothing to do what they started out looking for Russians involved in our campaign. There were none."

Trump broke his silence roughly an hour after Manafort was convicted in a federal court on eight counts of bank and tax fraud brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 campaign.

While the crimes did not directly involve Trump - they stemmed from Manafort's work for the pro-Russian former leader of Ukraine - the verdict provided a major boost for Mueller's probe. Manafort was the first person indicted by the special counsel to face trial.

It also raised questions about Trump's judgment, given that he hired Manafort after the alleged crimes were committed. Manafort, a longtime GOP operative who in recent years turned to foreign lobbying, led Trump's presidential campaign during a crucial three-month stretch that included the Republican National Convention.

Trump did not comment on the guilty plea of his former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who confessed to committing bank and tax fraud as well as campaign finance violations.

During a court appearance, Cohen said he made hush money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy playmate at the behest of a federal political candidate who is believed to be Trump in order to influence the 2016 election.

The White House directed questions about Cohen's plea to Trump's outside attorneys.

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