Trump mistakenly presents the judge in the Manafort trial, claiming he "does not show collusion" with Russia


As part of an ongoing effort to convince the public that his campaign had not been equated with Russia, President Trump dramatically distorted the words of the judge who presided over the conviction. from his former campaign president, Paul Manafort.

Manafort was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud. The case was continued by the office of the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, but was not related to its main task of investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

During Thursday's proceedings in a courtroom in Alexandria, US District Court Judge, TS Ellis III noted the distinction, saying that Manafort was "not in this court for anything." that has to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election. "

In a tweet and later, when he spoke to reporters, Trump mistakenly suggested that Ellis' comments had erased his campaign of wrongdoing.

"Both [Manafort’s] Attorney, a highly respected man and a highly respected judge, the judge said that there was no collusion with Russia, "Trump told the press as he was leaving the White House to travel to Alabama to see the damage caused by the tornado.

Trump said he was "very honored" by the judge's comments, adding, "It's a hoax of collusion, it's a hoax of collusion, I'm not colluding with Russia." "

A tweet sent earlier Friday morning was to argue the same point.

"Both the judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case have stated loud and clear that the whole world should hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia," wrote Trump. "But the hoax of the witch hunt continues as you now add these statements to Intelligence of the House and Senate and Senator Burr. Too bad for our country!

The tweet and Trump's comments to the reporters referred to Manafort's lawyer, Kevin Downing, who testified that there was "no evidence that Paul Manafort had collaborated with him." any government official from Russia ".

Trump's tweet prompted lawmakers to respond, including Senator Angus King (I-Maine).

"This case does not prove that there was no collusion, because it was not the subject of the lawsuit," King said in an appearance on CNN.

In a lawsuit last year, Manafort was found guilty of concealing millions of dollars for pressuring Ukrainian politicians into overseas bank accounts and forging financial loans to obtain loans. when his bosses lost power. Prosecutors emphasized his lavish lifestyle, claiming that his crimes were used to pay for high-end clothing and multiple properties.

The sentence imposed Thursday in Manafort was significantly lower than the twenties of jail imposed by the federal government.

"I feel very bad for Paul Manafort," Trump told the press in front of the White House. "I think it was a very, very difficult time for him."

Manafort says that it is only a collateral damage in Mueller 's investigation into Russia' s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller is expected to send a report in the coming weeks to Attorney General William P. Barr regarding his findings regarding election interference.

House and Senate intelligence committees are also continuing their investigations into Russia. Senator Richard Burr (CR), chair of the Senate committee, to whom Trump referred in his tweet, said he had seen no direct evidence of collusion.

Democratic lawmakers said Burr's assessment was premature.

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

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