Spicer: Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort played a “very limited” role for a “very limited period of time.” https://t.co/q3gqLwbrqb
— CNN (@CNN) March 20, 2017
Sean Spicer’s Monday briefing revolved around the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing Russia hearing, which has yielded major developments. First, FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed that the FBI is investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Secondly, Comey stressed that there’s zero evidence to support Trump’s bogus claims of wiretapping against Obama. When Spicer took the podium, he insisted that Trump won’t apologize or retract any accusations until a full investigation is complete. And curiously in the above clip, Spicer tried to shift the Russia focus by making two outlandish claims: (1) Paul Manafort only played a “very limited” part in the Trump campaign for a “very limited period of time” during the months he spent as campaign manager; (2) Gen. Michael Flynn was only a “volunteer” during the campaign. Wait, what?
Why is this important? For a few reasons, including the fact that Spicer was lying his pants off about both men. Spicer falsely claimed that Manafort only operated in the Trump sphere for a short time. However, Manafort was hired as campaign chairman in March 2016 and stuck around until August, when he was replaced — in varying capacities — by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon after Manafort’s name surfaced in a secret ledger of Ukraine funds. These reports included hints that Manafort may have organized a lobbying effort to influence America to embrace Ukraine’s pro-Russian government (prior to 2014, when it fell), allegedly in exchange for millions of dollars.
Not only that, but over this past weekend, reports surfaced that Manafort is wanted for questioning by Ukraine prosecutors as part of a corruption investigation. So yes, the Trump campaign is furiously backpeddling from Manafort, and perhaps they expect another big report to drop. This effort to distance is particularly odd since he’s lived in Trump Tower since 2006.
As for Flynn, he acted as a top national security advisor during the campaign. And a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration, official National Security Advisor Flynn resigned over his phone calls with a Russian ambassador (which included sanctions discussions and subsequent lies to Mike Pence and the FBI) during the transition period. Further, Flynn has admitted to lobbying for Turkey during the presidential campaign.
Clearly, the White House is attempting to mitigate future damage — what could it be? — while hoping that no one else (beyond all the people who hung out with the Russian ambassador under odd circumstances) gets washed away during the House Intel Committee hearings.
Another part of the Spicey press briefing that’s worthy of mention — Spicer is trying to make the entire hearing about “leaks” rather than any alleged wrongdoing on behalf of the Trump campaign or Russia. He also stressed that no one has yet uncovered any evidence that Russian interference resulted in changed swing state votes. And more leaks!
Spicer: Comey refused to answer the question about whether he briefed Obama on Flynn’s phone calls and activities https://t.co/JDUMh5cVIH
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 20, 2017