White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did an impressive job of misleading the American people on Monday, as she descended upon the White House for a response to the indictments dispensed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Sanders began the press briefing telling a joke about tax reform and beer, a clear attempt to filibuster the inevitable questions about the Russia investigation.
When she finally addressed the news about three former Trump associates who were indicted by Mueller this month, Sanders downplayed the whole affair. She said Monday's news that a campaign adviser pleaded guilty for lying about Russia contacts had nothing to do with Trump's 2016 campaign.
Sanders said that George Papadopoulos was basically a volunteer, but Trump singled out the foreign policy adviser as pivotal to his campaign, and photos of Papadopoulos show that he attended meetings with the future president.
SHS says Papadapoulous was basically a volunteer.
Here he is in campaign pic of Trump, Sessions w/ foreign policy team was announced. pic.twitter.com/sZGtxKF2WE
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) October 30, 2017
Papadopoulos' LinkedIn page claims he was an adviser on the Trump campaign for 11 months. Sanders argued that Papadopoulos' charge, lying to the FBI, had nothing to do with the Trump campaign. This was pure nonsense, of course, as Papadopoulos allegedly lied to the FBI about what he did and who he had contacted during his time working on the Trump campaign.
Sanders also tried to spin Paul Manafort's and Rick Gates' involvement with the campaign, saying that they mostly handled the delegate process and was let go shortly after Trump clinched the Republican nomination. But as Maggie Haberman notes, Gates worked on the campaign long after Manafort left, and Manafort continued to talk to the president by phone through the election.
Sanders then turned the table on Trump's political foe, Hillary Clinton, saying that the former Democratic presidential nominee "colluded" with Russia to "smear the president."
"If any collusion took place it was with the Clintons," Sanders said.
When asked what the White House's expectations were with the Mueller investigation going forward, Sanders said that she expected the probe to end "soon."
Q: Do you still believe Mueller is wrapping up his investigation?
Sanders: "We still expect this to conclude soon." https://t.co/QucvHCv6QA
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) October 30, 2017