Trump calls Russia investigation a 'collusion witch hoax' in rambling and inaccurate White House rant

‘It’s a collusion hoax, a collusion witch hoax. I don’t collude with Russia,’ says president

Adam Forrest
Friday 08 March 2019 16:40
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Trump calls Russia investigation a 'collusion witch hoax' outside White House

Donald Trump has labelled the investigation into his links with Russia a "collusion witch hoax", in a rambling and inaccurate tirade on the White House lawn.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn before flying to Alabama, the president wrongly suggested the judge who sentenced his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to 47 months in jail had said "there was no collusion with Russia".

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” Mr Trump said. “Both his lawyer, a highly respected man, and a very highly respected judge, the judge, said there was no collusion with Russia. It had nothing with collusion. There was no collusion.

He added: “It’s a collusion hoax, a collusion witch hoax. I don’t collude with Russia. The judge… made the statement that this had nothing to do collusion with Russia.”

During Thursday’s proceedings in a courtroom in Alexandria, US District Court Judge TS Ellis III had in fact said Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election.”

Mr Trump also said it had been a “very, very tough time” for his former campaign chairman.

Manafort faces additional sentencing next week in a separate case in which he has pleaded guilty to charges related to illegal lobbying.

He was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians, much less than what was called for under sentencing guidelines.

Manafort, sitting in a wheelchair as he continues to deal with complications from gout, had no visible reaction as he heard sentence.

While that was the longest sentence to date to come from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, it could have been much worse for Manafort. Sentencing guidelines called for a 20-year-term, effectively a lifetime sentence for the 69-year-old.

Manafort has been jailed since June, so he will receive credit for the nine months he has already served. He still faces the possibility of additional time from his sentencing in a separate case in the District of Columbia.

He told the judge that “saying I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.” But he offered no explicit apology, something Judge T.S. Ellis III noted before issuing his sentence Thursday.

Discussing character reference letters submitted by his friends and family, the judge said Manafort had lived an “otherwise blameless life.”

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