Less than 24 hours after his former campaign chairman was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud, President Donald Trump falsely claimed to reporters on Friday that the sentencing judge, T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., had said “there was no collusion with Russia.”
Trump twisted Judge Ellis’s words, who actually said Thursday that Paul Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election.”
Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before his trip to Alabama to tour storm-damaged areas, Trump added that he feels “very badly” for Manafort.
Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia. But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019
Trump made a similar claim on Twitter on Friday morning, writing: “Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia. But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country!”
As the New York Times notes:
There was “no collusion” because Mr. Manafort was not charged with or convicted of any crimes of collusion, a word that has no legal definition but has become a term of art for the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Mr. Manafort on Thursday received a sentence of nearly four years for financial crimes for which sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term of 19 to 24 years. He was convicted in August of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.
Manafort’s attorneys used the same false talking point as the president on Thursday, saying in a brief statement after the hearing, “There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official or Russia.”