In the immediate aftermath of the indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, President Donald Trump tweeted to distance himself from Manafort’s alleged misdeeds.
“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” the president tweeted Monday. “But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”
It’s a strategy of distancing and deflection we’ve seen from the president before. But in this specific tweet, Trump is likely referencing suspicious ties between Manafort and a pro-Russia political party between the years of 2007 and 2012 as revealed by the New York Times and the Associated Press.
In August 2016, the Times surfaced a secret handwritten ledger in Ukraine that showed the pro-Russian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former president, sent Manafort $12.7 million in previously undisclosed cash payments from 2007 to 2012. Days later, the AP published a report that detailed how, in 2012, Yanukovych’s party worked in tandem with Manafort to covertly funnel millions of dollars to Washington lobbying firms in an effort to influence American foreign policy.
But the charges against Manafort and Gates offer a different timeline for their alleged misdeeds, arguing that they occurred more recently than the president claims: According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates acted as “unregistered agents of the Government of Ukraine” between “at least 2006 and 2015.” The indictment also claims that Manafort and Gates laundered millions of dollars as a result of their work from “2006 through at least 2016.”
Manafort and Gates joined the Trump campaign in spring 2016, potentially overlapping with when prosecutors say they were laundering money for their undisclosed efforts to advance the Ukrainian ruling party’s interests.
But when it came to the overall probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, the president had this to say: