New revelations that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort previously worked on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin raised many questions at Wednesday’s White House press briefing. NBC’s Peter Alexander referred to the way former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had misled the administration about his own international ties and asked Sean Spicer whether the White House was confident that nobody else was working on behalf of a foreign interest.
Spicer could only offer that everybody has filled out the proper security forms and that they were being properly vetted. When challenged specifically about how Flynn’s nondisclosures didn’t affect his employment, Spicer reminded that he wasn’t fired over his form, but for “not being truthful to the vice president.”
Alexander pressed further, asking, “Can you say with certainty right now that there’s nobody working for this White House that is presently working in the interest of a foreign government?”
“I can tell you that every form has filled out,” Spicer replied, and that yes, the White House “absolutely” trusts what every individual self-disclosed on those forms.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday morning that Manafort worked for a Russian billionaire with close ties to Putin specifically on projects that would improve Putin’s reputation in the United States. Spicer described this as Manafort simply having a “client” and dismissed this connection as irrelevant because it was a decade ago.
The Trump administration’s recurring ambivalence about ties to Russia reinforces the notion that it doesn’t seem to see Putin as a threat, nor is it concerned whether employees are working on his behalf — at least not until they get caught.