Responding to news that two former senior campaign aides were charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating interactions between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, the president tried to shift the focus elsewhere, asking on Twitter why Hillary Clinton and the Democrats aren't the focus of the probe.
Trump's tweet: "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--?"
He tacked on this addendum: "....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!"
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the indictments have "nothing to do with the president," because "most" of the alleged crimes occurred before they worked Trump.
Sanders also dismissed former foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous - who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI - as a "volunteer" on the Trump campaign and said he served on a committee that only met once. Mueller's office announced Monday that Papadopolous pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to FBI agents about the timing and detail of his attempts to line up meetings between Russian government officials and the Trump campaign.
Sanders said Papadopolous' actions were not sanctioned by the campaign.
The three men were the first to be charged by Mueller.
Manafort and Rick Gates surrendered to federal authorities Monday to face felony charges of conspiracy against the United States, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and several other financial counts involving tens of millions of dollars routed through offshore accounts. They pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday afternoon.
The indictment against Manafort and Gates alleges criminal activity through "at least 2016," when the presidential campaign was in full swing.
Glenn Selig, the spokesman for Gates, is best known as Rod Blagojevich's publicist during criminal proceedings. Selig, whose firm is based in Tampa, Fla., also has represented Drew Peterson.
White House allies privately expressed relief that the charges against Manafort and Gates did not specifically pertain to Russia or the Trump administration.
Over the weekend, Trump had taken to Twitter to allege that the "facts are pouring out" about links to Russia by Clinton, his former presidential opponent.
"DO SOMETHING!" Trump urged in one of five tweets on Saturday.
Trump and the White House insist there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia. Both have pointed a finger at Clinton and have suggested that the real story of collusion with Russia is the sale of uranium to Moscow when Clinton was secretary of state.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered with the election to benefit Trump, a finding that Trump has not fully accepted. Mueller and Congress are looking into allegations of ties between Trump associates and Russia.
In his weekend tweets, Trump referenced the fact that Clinton's presidential campaign helped fund political research into Trump that ultimately produced a dossier of allegations about his ties to Russia. He also pointed to the uranium sale, the tens of thousands of emails from Clinton's time at the State Department that she later deleted from a private email server, and the decision by then-FBI Director Jim Comey to not bring criminal charges against Clinton for possible mishandling of classified information.
"Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia 'collusion,' which doesn't exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's are now fighting back like never before," Trump says across several tweets. "There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!"
Trump also suggested that Russia's re-emergence into the conversation is no accident, tweeting that "All of this 'Russia' talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!"
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers are scheduled to release a tax cut bill that is being pushed by the GOP lawmakers and Trump.
LOCAL POLITICIANS RESPOND
Illinois politicians reacted to the indictments Monday.
"If Watergate was algebra, the Russia investigation is calculus; it's complexed, nuanced, it's going to take a long time," said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigly (D-Chicago).
Democrats who joined together for an unrelated news conference on health care raised concerns that Trump might consider secret, preemptive pardons in the investigation.
"Now more than ever we have to bring transparency to the pardon process and make sure that no president - Republican or Democrat - has the ability through secret preemptive pardons to impede an investigation, or to quash an investigation," said U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Schaumburg).
"And wherever [Mueller ] takes this, I think we should stand on a bipartisan basis behind him and say the Constitution is more important than any single politician or his family," said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).
Several Republicans also said they support the continuing investigation.
"I'm confident in Special Counsel Mueller's integrity and ability to carry out this investigation to its conclusion," U.S. Rep Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) said in a statement.
"Anyone breaking the law and undermining our national security must face consequences," said U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Winfield), also in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) tweeted, "As I've said from day one, the American people deserve answers, transparency & the truth. Important to allow Mueller to do his job."
As I’ve said from day one, the American people deserve answers, transparency & the truth. Important to allow Mueller to do his job.— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) October 30, 2017
Rep. Quigley sees the investigation causing a potential Constitutional crisis, depending on what Trump does.
"Obviously the biggest concern is that he would try to find some way to fire Mueller, and to squash the investigation," he said.
"You asked about Watergate, well, why don't you just go check what happened the last time they fired prosecutor; in Watergate, it didn't go very well," said U.S. Rep. Luis Guttierez (D-Chicago) at the news conference.
SUMMARY OF THE CHARGES IN THE INDICTMENT, AND THE POTENTIAL PENALTIES:
COUNT ONE: Conspiracy Against the United States
Both men are charged with conspiring together and with others to knowingly and intentionally defraud and commit crimes against the United States between 2006 and 2017. If found guilty of this count, each potentially faces up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
COUNT TWO: Conspiracy to Launder Money
Both men are charged with conspiring together and with others to transfer funds from outside the United States to and through places inside the country without properly disclosing the transactions or paying required federal taxes. Penalties for this count include up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of either $500,000 or twice the monetary value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.
COUNTS THREE THROUGH SIX: Failure to File Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts
The indictment alleges that for each calendar year between 2012 and 2015, Manafort failed to disclose to the U.S. Treasury Department that he had a financial interest in and authority over bank accounts in a foreign country involving more than $10,000. Penalties include up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the four counts and fines of up to $100,000, or up to 50 percent of the total value for the transactions, for each of the four years encompassed in the counts.
COUNTS SEVEN THROUGH NINE: Failure to File Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts
The indictment also alleges that between 2012 and 2014 Gates failed to disclose to the U.S. Treasury Department that he had a financial interest in and authority over bank accounts in a foreign country involving more than $10,000. Penalties include up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the four counts and fines of up to $100,000, or up to 50 percent of the total value for the transactions, for each of the four years encompassed in the counts.
COUNT TEN: Unregistered Agent of a Foreign Principal
Prosecutors allege that both men failed to register with the U.S. attorney general as foreign agents of the government of Ukraine, the Part of Regents and Yanukovych between 2008 and 2014. Penalties include up to five years in federal prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
COUNT ELEVEN: False and misleading statements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act
The indictment alleges that both men made multiple false statements to federal officials in relation to their failure to register as foreign agents of the Ukrainian government. Penalties include up to five years in federal prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
COUNT TWELVE: False Statements
Prosecutors allege that between November 2016 and February 2017 that Manafort and Gates conspired together and caused others to make false statements and conceal crimes against the United States. The penalty for this count is up to five years in prison.
WLS-TV contributed to this report