In the wake of two indictments and a guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, the White House insisted that the criminal charges have nothing to do with President Donald Trump or his campaign.
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White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also said Trump has no intention of firing Mueller.
"The president said last week, and I said several times before, there is no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel," Sanders told ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl. "Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president and nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity."
Sanders also downplayed the role of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators.
Papadopoulos' role in the campaign "was extremely limited," Sanders said. "It was a volunteer position."
She also sought to downplay the role of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, saying he was hired to handle the Republican delegate process at the convention.
"The president hired Paul Manafort to handle the delegate process, which he did and he was dismissed not too long after that," she said.
Sanders said the White House has received indications that the investigation will be concluded "soon."
'No collusion,' Trump says
Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates were indicted Monday morning on 12 charges, including conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, and serving as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal.
George Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to FBI agents about his correspondence with Russian nationals and attempts to arrange a meeting between the campaign and Russian officials. The guilty plea was unsealed Monday.
Trump meanwhile said on Twitter that "this is years ago," an apparent reference to Manafort's past work on behalf a Ukrainian political party. He also asked why Clinton and Democrats weren't the focus of the probe.
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
'A dark picture' of Trump campaign: Democrat
Congressional Democrats reacted to news of the charges Monday by demanding Mueller's investigation be allowed to continue without interruption.
"Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, must also make clear to the President that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress," said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner in a statement.
Others reacted in statements of their own and on Twitter.
The special counsel’s probe is ongoing in a serious way. The rule of law is paramount in America & the investigation must proceed unimpeded.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 30, 2017
.@realDonaldTrump must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 30, 2017
Congress must take action now to protect the independence of the Special Counsel wherever or however high his investigation may lead. https://t.co/gZcwspX7HQ— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 30, 2017
"These indictments, combined with the news today that a former Trump advisor pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI about his contacts with foreign officials close to the Russian government, paint a dark picture of the people who ascended to top roles in the Trump campaign," Delaware Sen. Tom Carper said in a statement.
Manafort joined Trump’s presidential campaign in early 2016, serving as campaign manager from June until his resignation in August of that year.