President Donald Trump briefly slammed the investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 campaign during his rally in West Virginia on Tuesday, hours after his campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on charges stemming from that investigation.
“Fake news and the Russian witch hunt,” Trump said during his rally in West Virginia. “Where is the collusion? You know they’re still looking for collusion. Where is the collusion? Find us some collusion. We want to find the collusion.”
Trump largely avoided the topic of the investigation during the first portion of his rally and after making these remarks, he quickly returned to his scripted remarks.
He had earlier praised Manafort as a “good man” just hours after he was convicted on eight federal counts of bank and tax fraud.
Trump seized on the guilty verdict to decry Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace,” noting that the charges were not related to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
“Paul Manafort is a good man. He was with Ronald Reagan. He was with a lot of different people over the years. I feel very sad about that. It doesn’t involve me but I still feel – you know it’s a very sad thing that happened,’ Trump said as he arrived in Charleston, West Virginia, for a rally Tuesday evening. “You know, this has nothing to do with Russian collusion.”
The comments were the President’s first since the double-header of Manafort’s conviction and Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen’s guilty plea on eight unrelated federal charges – both stories breaking within minutes of each other.
Trump declined to answer questions about Cohen’s guilty verdict, which could put the President in legal jeopardy. Among other charges, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” Trump.
A source close to the White House told CNN’s Jim Acosta that the White House had hoped for a favorable verdict in the Manafort case, which would have provided an opening for further attacks on the Mueller investigation.
But even as Manafort was convicted by a jury on eight counts and could face decades in prison, Trump wasted no time pivoting to attacking Mueller.
“It’s a witch hunt and it’s disgrace. But this has nothing to do with what they started out, looking for Russians in our campaign – there were none,” Trump said. “It was not the original mission believe me. It was something very much different. It had nothing to do with Russian collusion.”
“We continue the witch hunt,” he added, before walking away and offering reporters a thumbs-up.