Trump attacks 'liar' ex-campaign aide Papadopoulos after guilty plea

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump on Tuesday downplayed the announcement that three campaign officials — Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos — had been charged with federal crimes.

Notably, Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy aide, admitted lying to the FBI about his outreach to Russia during the campaign. Trump has repeatedly lashed out against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into how the Kremlin sought to influence the 2016 election.

According to Trump, however, Papadopoulos is “already proven to be a liar.”

“The Fake News is working overtime,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “As Paul Manaforts [sic] lawyer said, there was ‘no collusion’ and events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign. Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!”

The president added: “I hope people will start to focus on our Massive Tax Cuts for Business (jobs) and the Middle Class (in addition to Democrat corruption)!”

On Monday, Mueller’s office announced that Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Gates, Manafort’s former business partner, were charged with 12 counts — including conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion — from 2005 through 2017. Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was installed as chairman in June of that year after Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Manafort and Gates both pleaded not guilty to all the charges on Monday afternoon. Speaking to reporters outside the federal courthouse, Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, called the charges against his client “ridiculous.”

“President Donald Trump was correct,” Downing said. “There is no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with the Russia government.”

The Justice Department also announced on Monday that Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians during the campaign. According to documents released Monday by Mueller’s office, Papadopoulos was arrested in July and cooperated with federal officials in their investigation.

Related: Read all the charges against Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos

The charges are the first brought by Mueller since he was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

But “the biggest story yesterday,” Trump argued, was the resignation of Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta from the Podesta Group after the indictment of Manafort revealed that the firm had done work on a public relations effort organized by Manafort for a Ukrainian nonprofit. Podesta’s brother, John, was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“Not bad enough that I was the victim of a massive cyber crime directed by the Russian President,” John Podesta tweeted in response. “Now I’m the victim of a big lie campaign by the American President.”

In March 2016, Papadopoulos attended a “national security meeting” in Washington, D.C., where federal officials say he introduced himself to Trump and the group, and said he could “help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.” In an interview that month, Trump praised Papadopoulos as an “excellent guy.”

In this photo from Donald Trump’s Twitter account, George Papadopoulos, third from left, sits at a table with then candidate Trump and others at what is labeled as a national security meeting in Washington. The photo was posted on March 31, 2016. (Photo: Donald Trump’s Twitter account via AP)

According to the Washington Post, the president spent most of Monday fuming about the cable news coverage of the indictments.

“Trump’s anger Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown,” the Post said. “As the president groused upstairs, many staffers — some of whom have hired lawyers to help them navigate Mueller’s investigation — privately speculated about where the special counsel might turn next.”

White House lawyer Ty Cobb pushed back against the report, telling the paper that the announcement of the first charges in the Russia probe were not “a cause of great agita or angst or activity at the White House.”

Trump, Cobb added, is “spending all of his time on presidential work.”

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