Perspectives

White House Minimizes While Congress Ducks Latest Trump-Russia Legal Action


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After two 12 count indictments were issued against former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, a guilty plea of a Trump Campaign security advisor was unveiled on Monday. Washington DC was buzzing with strategizing, gossiping, and worrying.
George Papadopolous, part of the Trump Security Group, admitted to communicating with Russians who promised Hillary Clinton’s emails after he initially lied about it to the FBI. It also was verified by court papers that Papadopolous had been involved in “proactive cooperation” with the FBI since July 2017. This put Russian involvement into the middle of the Trump campaign as the President continued to tweet that there was “no collusion.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller had struck his first visible blow. Speculation now runs rampant as to what will come next and what political and legal positions should be taken in anticipation of Mueller’s next step.
Philip Elliott, Washington correspondent for TIME, described to Spectrum the current positions of the White House and also described congressional response.
The White House is characterizing the alleged crimes of Manafort and Gates as all occurring prior to being associated with the Trump campaign and therefore, not related. The President, it is reported, even felt relief after the first indictments were made public.
However, that relief was short-lived and after hearing of the Papadopolous plea he became so angry and volatile that staffers were avoiding him – even in hallways, according to Elliott.
President Trump, in tweets Tuesday, echoed the Monday statements of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demeaning Papadopolous as a young, low-level volunteer and a proven liar.
Elliott says that despite the White House public bravado that staffers are quite concerned about their potential legal liabilities and are “leaking” information like never before.
While the White House engages the public on the Mueller actions, Congress is trying to duck public comment as much as possible, Elliott says. Democrats are calling for protections of Mueller’s position and Republicans are saying that they are not going to be distracted by the latest legal actions. Instead, House Speaker Paul Ryan claims he will be singularly focused on tax reform.
Elliott notes that members of Congress from both parties are still playing the waiting-game to determine how much trouble the President and his campaign will ultimately be in as a result of Mueller’s investigations. He also notes the dual Congressional investigations are still ongoing.
He says the next big issue to watch will be the Russian involvement in Social Media.