The White House Was Talking Taxes While Manafort Was Indicted & Everyone Went, “Huh?”


Oct. 30 was a gloomy, doomsday-like moment for the Trump administration. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 charges, including conspiracy against the United States. Oddly, Press Sec. Sarah Huckabee Sanders decided to talk about beer and taxes during Monday's press briefing... because... um... yeah, it beats me. Tweets about the White House response to Russia charges are mostly a whole lot of bewilderment, followed by a large heaping of huh?

Sanders began her press briefing with a little quip.

"I want to start the briefing today by addressing a topic I know all of you are preparing to ask me about," she said, "and that's tax reform."

Sanders then went onto explain Trump's tax reform plan with a very long analogy involving a bar tab. She began,

Suppose that every day, ten people — for our purposes, we'll say 'reporters' — go out for beer, and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If these ten reporters paid their tab every night the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four, the poorest, would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7.

And so on and so on.

As you might imagine, this was not exactly what listeners wanted to hear about. Many took to Twitter to express confusion over what appeared to be an overwrought math lesson.

When Sanders did address the charges against Manafort and Gates, she tried her best to distance the two men from Donald Trump.

“Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president,” the press secretary told reporters. “It has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity.”

Sanders added that Trump has not spoken to Manafort since February, per CNBC.

Manafort and Gates, who were scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. ET, at the same time as Sanders' briefing, have pleaded not guilty to all charges, which included conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, and failure to file foreign bank and financial accounts.

Meanwhile, a third hammer has already fallen on a former member of the Trump campaign team.

Trump's former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was caught lying to the F.B.I. about a correspondence he had with a professor who has close ties to the Russian government. The email exchange involved the professor promising dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

On Oct. 5, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to obstructing "the timing, extent and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials." The news of his charges and plea also broke Monday.

The court document detailing the plea explained,

Through his false statements and omissions, defendant ... impeded the FBI's ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Once again, Sanders distanced Trump from those charges, calling Papadopoulos' role a "volunteer position."

"No activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign," she said.

The president had some kind words for Papadopoulos during an interview with The Washington Post in 2016. He listed off his foreign policy advisors, praising Papadopoulos specifically. "George Papadopoulos. He’s an oil and energy consultant," Trump said. "Excellent guy."

Sanders also unequivocally stated that there was no collusion with Russia, and trotted out some Clinton blaming for good measure.

“There is clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding to smear the president and influence the election." she said. “We have been saying from day one there is no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment changes that today.”

I guess we'll just have to see where the hammer drops next. Maybe next time Sanders can talk to the White House press corps about drinking a nice rosé.