Trump in broadside at media as aides indicted
US President Donald Trump lashed out against media coverage of the first charges unsealed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the 2016 election and distanced himself from George Papadopoulos, one of three campaign aides whose indictments were revealed.
"Few people knew the young, low-level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar," Mr Trump tweeted yesterday morning.
Mr Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser during Mr Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty on October 5 to lying to FBI investigators about his contacts with Russian operatives and is now cooperating with prosecutors.
"The Fake News is working overtime. As Paul Manafort's lawyer said, there was 'no collusion' and events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign," Mr Trump also said yesterday on Twitter.
Mr Manafort, Mr Trump's former campaign chairman, and his deputy Rick Gates were charged with crimes including money laundering and illegal foreign lobbying.
They were placed under house arrest as flight risks after pleading not guilty.
Mr Trump also sought to shift focus back to his legislative agenda and to accusations against Democrats.
"I hope people will start to focus on our Massive Tax Cuts for Business (jobs) and the Middle Class (in addition to Democrat corruption)!" he tweeted.
Meanwhile, lawyers for Mr Papadopoulos, Thomas Breen and Robert Stanley, said that it was in their client's best interest that they "refrain from commenting on George's case".
Under the plea agreement with prosecutors, he's likely to serve no more than six months and may avoid prison altogether.
Kevin Downing, a lawyer for Mr Manafort, also denied any wrongdoing by his client and also defended Mr Trump.
"President Donald Trump was correct. There is no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with the Russia government," he said in a statement.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to distance Mr Trump from the indictments, saying "most" alleged activities took place before the 2016 presidential campaign.
At the same time, Mr Trump Tweeted: "Sorry but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?"
Footage and a photograph from 2016 have also re-surfaced that show Mr Trump sharing a stage and a meeting table with the three men in question.
A video from the 2016 presidential campaign shows Mr Trump walking up to a podium with daughter Ivanka on the RNC stage; behind him are Mr Manafort and Mr Gates.
Meanwhile, a photo from Mr Trump's Instagram account shows Mr Papadopoulos sitting at a table with then-candidate Mr Trump and others at what is labelled as a national security meeting in Washington that was posted on March 31, 2016.
Mr Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election revealed its first targets on Monday, with a former campaign adviser to Mr Trump admitting he lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
The guilty plea by Mr Papadopoulos marked the first criminal count that cites interactions between Trump campaign associates and Russian intermediaries during the election campaign.
The developments ushered Mr Mueller's sprawling investigation into a new phase with felony charges and possible prison sentences for key members of the Trump team.