WASHINGTON ― White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday shrugged off news of criminal charges against several members of President Donald Trump’s campaign, arguing they had “nothing to do with the president” or “the activities of the campaign.”
Using a familiar refrain among Trump administration officials, Sanders attempted to distance Trump from his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort by minimizing his role in the campaign, while saying it’s too early in “the process” to comment on whether Trump would pardon Manafort.
Manafort, who was indicted Monday on charges that included money laundering and concealing lobbying for pro-Russia groups, “was hired to manage the delegate process and was dismissed not long after that,” Sanders told reporters.
Omitted in her explanation: Manafort served as Trump’s campaign chairman and helped the former reality television star secure the GOP presidential nomination ahead of the Republican National Convention last summer.
When it came to former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos ― who earlier this month pleaded guilty to lying about being offered “dirt” on Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton from the Russian government ― Sanders repeatedly said he was merely “a volunteer on an advisory council that met once.”
When asked about a photograph showing Papadopoulos at a meeting with Trump and Jeff Sessions, who then was an adviser and now is the attorney general, Sanders again claimed it was no big deal because “the president has thousands of photographs with millions of people.”
Earlier this year, Sanders’ predecessor Sean Spicer similarly tried to put distance between Trump and Manafort, a top target in the probes, by saying the former campaign chairman only “played a very limited role” in Trump’s campaign.
When asked about former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who resigned after lying about his contacts with Russia, Spicer called him “a volunteer.”