Friday, March 24, 2017

Washington Post: The White House has lots of alternative facts on troublesome former advisers

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there was no collusion between Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Russian operatives. Spicer said the accusation is “ridiculous.” Moreover, there are signals of wrong doing by Trump’s former campaign advisor’s Roger Stone, Carter Page, Michael Flynn, and Corey Lewandowski.

Robert Reich explains how the White House and Spicer’s denials are contrary to relevant evidence:

As the vise tightens on the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian operatives, the White House is trying to minimize the roles of key campaign aides who are likely to be implicated.

1. White House press secretary Sean Spicer now says Paul Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited period of time.” But Manafort was Trump campaign chairman for months. In fact, it's widely believed that Manafort was the de facto campaign manager between April and June, just before the FBI began its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

2. Spicer dismisses longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone as one of the “hangers-on.” But Trump’s relationship with Stone dates back decades, and Stone is widely still considered a Trump associate. In fact, Stone told the National Review on Monday that he still advises Trump. “I prefer to communicate with the president through short, pithy memos, as I have for 39 years,” he said.

3. After Carter Page’s contacts with Russia came under investigation, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller insisted that Page “has made no contribution to the campaign,” and Kellyanne Conway said he was “certainly not part of the campaign that I'm running.” Trump said in February that Page “was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time.”

But Page was named to the Trump foreign policy team in March 2016, and was described as an “informal advisor” as recently as August by Trump spokesman Hope Hicks. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper earlier this month, Page confirmed he wrote policy papers for the campaign.

4. Spicer now characterizes Michael T. Flynn as a “volunteer of the campaign.” But Flynn was there in public with Trump at campaign rallies and was a top surrogate. And then he later became Trump's national security adviser, albeit briefly.

5. After Corey Lewandowski’s run-in with a reporter and some missteps during the primaries, aides assured reporters in April that he was a glorified body man and scheduler serving with the title of campaign manager. Yet the next month he was reportedly tasked with leading the vice-presidential search process. (By June, he was fired.)

Despite the White House's revisionist history, all of them -- Manafort, Stone, Page, Flynn, and Lewandowski -- were intermediaries between Russian operatives and Trump.

Paul Manafort, left, Roger Stone, center,
and the late Lee Atwater are pictured
in 1985. White House press secretary
Sean Spicer played down Manafort's
and Stone's role on the Trump campaign
on Monday.
(Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post)

By Aaron Blake