President Donald Trump is trying to spin the arrest of Paul Manafort with a claim that, by implication, argues his campaign didn't sufficiently research Manafort's background.
Manafort turned himself in on Monday morning after being indicted on Friday along with his former business partner Rick Gates, according to CNN. The indictment against Manafort and Gates contains 12 counts, ranging from conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to launder money to making false and misleading statements to the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
In response to this development, which many Washington insiders are speculating could be a ploy to get Manafort to flip on members of the Trump administration or even Trump himself, the White House has been playing it cool.
One White House spokesperson told CNN that Trump "may not have a response at all" to Manafort's charges, while a White House source told the site that "today has zero to do with the White House" because Mueller's charges pertain to Manafort and Gates' business career.
Yet another source downplayed the significance of Manafort's indictment by arguing, "These guys were bad guys when they started, they were bad guys when they left." That was the position that Trump himself seemed to take on his Twitter feed when he said, "this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign."
Yet as Ukrainian political expert Oleg Kravchenko told Politifact last year, "We joke in Ukraine that it is a bad sign for Trump that he hired Manafort, because his client [Viktor] Yanukovych was ousted and fled to Russia, to the city of Rostov. So Trump could also end up in Rostov. It is almost like an anecdote."
While it's highly unlikely that Trump was unaware of Manafort's connections to Russia and Ukraine before hiring him — and if he was, that fact alone would raise serious questions about his competence — he is certainly not in a position to state definitively that the Mueller probe's recent arrests have nothing to do with his campaign. Manafort's legal predicament ties into his days working for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, which may indirectly relate to Trump's campaign. There's a bigger problem, though: Charges against former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos are directly related to Papadopoulos allegedly trying to set up a meeting with Russian officials.