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White House: Manafort charges have 'nothing to do with the president'

  • White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that the indictment of Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort "has nothing to do with the president."
  • Manafort and a longtime associate were indicted Friday on 12 counts related to hiding foreign payments, including one count of "conspiracy against the United States."
  • Sanders also said that Trump has "no intention or plan to make any changes" to the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller.
Donald Trump
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Donald Trump

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded Monday to the news that President Donald Trump's onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted on 12 counts related to hiding foreign payments, including one count of "conspiracy against the United States."

"Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, and has nothing to do with the president's campaign, or his campaign activity," Sanders told reporters at the White House.

Trump and Manafort haven't spoken in several months, she said. "The last known conversation was back all the way to February, and as far as anything beyond that, with Paul, I'm not sure."

She added that Trump had hired Manafort in 2016, "to handle the delegate process" during the Republican National Convention, "and he was dismissed not too long after that."

The White House also addressed the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor on Trump's presidential campaign. Sanders emphasized that Papadopoulos was an unpaid advisor who, she said, only attended one meeting with Trump during the campaign. "Any actions he took would have been on his own," Sanders said.

Sanders also said that Trump is not currently planning to dismiss special counsel Robert Mueller, despite calls from some Republicans that Mueller be fired. "There is no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel," she said.

Manafort's former longtime business partner, Rick Gates, also was charged in the 31-page indictment, made public on Monday. Gates and Manafort both surrendered to authorities on Monday morning.

A spokesman for Manafort did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment from CNBC.

The indictments mark a new phase in Mueller's investigation into Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. They also cap off a year of escalating legal problems for Manafort and Gates, who worked with Manafort for years on many of his foreign lobbying contracts.

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