Following Thursday’s sentencing hearing against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump claimed that the presiding judge exonerated the entire Trump campaign from allegations that they colluded with Russia to influence the election.
The judge said no such thing.
Judge T.S. Ellis did note that yesterday’s ruling — in which Manafort got a relatively lenient sentence of only 47 months for his numerous financial crimes — wasn’t related to any of the ongoing investigations into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. “[Manafort] is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government to influence the election,” Ellis noted.
Ellis was correct: Manafort stood before the court because he committed tax and bank frauds. But Trump tried to use the judge’s words to says he and his campaign were now entirely exonerated from all charges of collusion.
On Twitter, Trump claimed that Ellis “stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia.” Trump later reiterated that Ellis “said there was no collusion with Russia.”
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
Ellis said no such thing. In fact, those investigations that the president called the “Witch Hunt Hoax” are heating up, especially in Congress now that Democrats chair key committees. Just this week, House Democrats requested documents from dozens of individuals, from campaign associates to sanctioned Russian oligarchs themselves.
At the Department of Justice, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election. The ongoing investigation has already detailed how Russia aided Trump using tools like a massive disinformation campaign on social media. That investigation has already secured dozens of indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas from advisers and members of Trump’s campaign.
Manafort is due for further sentencing in Washington, D.C., next week on illegal lobbying charges, but there remain several significant unanswered questions about his role in connecting the Trump campaign to Russia. For example, Manafort was secretly sharing internal polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, whom Mueller’s office has noted has ties to Russian intelligence.
Thursday’s ruling may not have been directly related to Russian collusion, but the specter of collusion still hangs over the president, and the investigations into his alleged misdeeds are ongoing.