White House uses a lie to downplay latest Mueller indictment

Sarah Sanders can't stop using a talking point that was debunked last week.

CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

During the White House news briefing on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if former Trump campaign official Rick Gates’ guilty plea for conspiring against the United States and making false statements to the FBI says “anything about the president’s judgment that three people linked to his campaign have now turned out to be criminals?”

Sanders responded with a blatant lie.

“Look, I think that those are issues that took place long before they were involved with the president, and anything beyond that, because those are active investigations, I’m not going to go any further than that,” she said.

“Even though Gates served on his campaign?” the reporter — Hallie Jackson of NBC — followed up.

“Yeah, but the actions that are under review and under investigation took place prior to him being a part of the president’s campaign,” Sanders replied.

But while Sanders wants you to believe that the crimes Gates, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to all took place before they were associated with Trump, the truth is actually the opposite. Each of them pleaded guilty to crimes involving conduct that took place either during the campaign or after the campaign had ended.

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In fact, Gates admitted to lying to FBI officials during an interview that took place on February 1 of this year. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the transition period between the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration, and Papadopoulos copped to lying to federal investigators during an interview that took place a week after Trump’s inauguration.

Those pleas aside, the indictment Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued on Thursday accusing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Gates of laundering some $30 million and working as unregistered foreign agents for Ukraine involved conduct that alleged took place as recently as October 2017. The Washington Post notes that while “the charges against Manafort and Gates do not involve activities inside the Trump campaign… the conduct in question continued while they worked there.”

As ThinkProgress detailed, the new indictment’s timeline “flies in the face of White House officials’ previous attempts to distance themselves from the allegations facing Manafort, which centered primarily on the fact that the illegal activity preceded Manafort joining Trump’s campaign. As the president tweeted last October — around the same time Gates was allegedly lying to his tax preparer — Manafort’s crimes took place ‘years ago.'”

But instead of developing a new talking point conforming with the facts of the guilty pleas and indictments, Sanders’ remarks on Monday indicate that the White House is simply willing to lie about it.