Spicer: Former campaign chairman had 'very limited role'

Spicer attempted to distance the administration from Paul Manafort.

ByABC News
March 20, 2017, 6:38 PM

— -- As the House Intelligence Committee pressed the directors of the FBI and NSA for details about the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was attempting to distance the administration from a former top aide with ties to the region.

At Monday's press briefing, Spicer downplayed the role of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who directed the strategy behind election efforts for three months last year.

“Obviously there has been some discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time," said Spicer, who ignored a follow-up request for clarification, given Manafort's position.

Questioned later during briefing about his characterization of Manafort's work and the possibility that he may have had contact with Russia due to his prior lobbying work in Ukraine, Spicer said he wasn't "looking to re-litigate the election."

"I believe Paul was brought on sometime in June and by the middle of August he was no longer with the campaign," said Spicer. "Meaning that for the entire final stretch of the general election, he was not involved. And so to start to look at some individual who was there for a short period of time, or separately individuals who really didn't play a role in the campaign and suggest those are the basis for anything, is a bit ridiculous."

Manafort served as campaign chairman for a period of 99 days from May 19 to Aug. 19. During that time, Trump won six Republican primary contests, clinched the number of delegates needed for the party's nomination, chose Mike Pence to be his running mate and attended the Republican National Convention, where he accepted the GOP's bid and launched his general election campaign.

In August, officials in Ukraine said Manafort’s name was included on a list of "black accounts" made by the former Ukraine President Victor Yanukovych, a supporter of Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

After Manafort resigned from the campaign, his duties were largely taken over by Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, who were named the campaign's chief executive and manager, respectively.

ABC News' John Verhovek contributed to this report.

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