Updated at 10:22 a.m. | President Donald Trump kicked off his Tuesday by trying to discredit a former campaign aide who federal investigators say sought “dirt” on Hillary Clinton he believed was being offered by the Russian government.
George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to giving false and misleading statements to federal officials investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Court documents unsealed Monday allege Papadopoulos was in contact with two Russians he believed had ties to senior Kremlin officials and wanted to hand over to the Trump campaign “thousands” of emails that could undermine Clinton’s candidacy.
In emails cited in the court documents, the foreign policy adviser let an unnamed campaign higher-up know his Russian contacts wanted to meet with Trump. The official responded that they should consider taking the meetings, but was firm that Trump would not do so or travel to Russia.
House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schaffer, D-Calif., on Monday said the documents appear to describe a classic Russian intelligence operation targeting the low-level, 30-year-old volunteer adviser.
It marked the first time that special counsel Robert Mueller has in a formal way shown connections between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Trump tweeted on Monday there “is NO COLLUSION,” and his top spokeswoman and a private lawyer spent the afternoon trying to distance the president from Papadopoulos and two other former aides who were indicted Monday on unrelated charges.
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
The president took it upon himself to drive home the point Tuesday morning, using his preferred method of communication with his supporters.
He tweeted that “few people knew” Papadopoulos, whom he — like his aides a day before — dismissed as a “low-level volunteer.”
Despite the ongoing federal probe, Trump wrote that Papadopoulos “has already proven to be a liar.”
The Fake News is working overtime. As Paul Manaforts lawyer said, there was "no collusion" and events mentioned took place long before he...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
....came to the campaign. Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
In a 2016 interview with the Washington Post, however, Trump described Papadopoulos as an “excellent guy.”
I hope people will start to focus on our Massive Tax Cuts for Business (jobs) and the Middle Class (in addition to Democrat corruption)!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
And as he and his team have done for several days, he attempted to shift focus to what he and White House aides say is the real scandal: Clinton’s and Democrats’ dealings with Russian officials on a dossier that contains alleged information about that paints Trump’s personal behavior and business tactics in a negative light and a possible uranium deal.
To that end, he ended his second tweet on Mueller’s probe with this: “Check the DEMS!”
A couple hours later, Trump was back on Twitter attacking Democrats. This time, he zeroed in on Tony Podesta, the influential Democratic lobbyist and brother of former Clinton 2016 campaign manager John Podesta.
Tony Podesta on Monday announced he was leaving the Washington lobby shop that holds his name because he, too, is subject to Mueller's investigation.
Trump wrote that Podesta knows a lot "about Crooked Dems" that will prove "earth shattering.
"He and his brother could Drain The Swamp," Trump wrote, referring to John Podesta and one of his own 2016 campaign themes, "which would be yet another campaign promise fulfilled."
The biggest story yesterday, the one that has the Dems in a dither, is Podesta running from his firm. What he know about Crooked Dems is....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
....earth shattering. He and his brother could Drain The Swamp, which would be yet another campaign promise fulfilled. Fake News weak!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017