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27 Feb, 2018 21:25

Trump cries ‘witch hunt,’ but the devil is in details

Trump cries ‘witch hunt,’ but the devil is in details

US President Donald Trump’s reiteration that the Russia probe is a ‘witch hunt’ sparked an avalanche of responses on Twitter. But the meltdown has exposed Trump critics’ severe lack of knowledge about the Mueller investigation.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a series of quotes that appeared in the media, arguing that there is a lack of evidence that shows collusion between his election campaign and Russia. He quoted legal scholar Jonathan Turley and former special counsel Ken Starr before ending the series with a two-word tweet: "WITCH HUNT!”

That last tweet unleashed a flood of responses, including from high-profile media members who asked why people indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller were pleading guilty if the whole investigation was just a ‘witch hunt.’ Twitter itself even got in on the act by creating a Moment, collating some of the messages.

What all those rushing to point out all the guilty pleas failed to mention is that none of the people indicted have pleaded guilty to any charges related to the presidential election or anything to do with collusion with Russia.

READ MORE: Hillary Clinton's election blame game zeros in on Facebook

George Papadopoulos, a volunteer foreign policy adviser for Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about trying to establish contacts with Russia. While the president’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to not revealing all the information about one conversation he had with the Russian ambassador. Flynn’s case is particularly interesting, as he reportedly pleaded guilty after the FBI said it would not prosecute him.

The indictment of 13 Russians, who reportedly worked for the Internet Research Agency, does not include any allegations that their activities had any influence on the outcome of the election, and specifically states that no Americans willingly colluded with them. It also reveals that their campaign started in May 2014, long before Trump entered the presidential race.

The charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, his business partner Rick Gates, and lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are related to money generated from their lobbying work in Ukraine, long before the presidential campaign. Some of the lobbying was actually done on behalf of the Podesta Group, run by Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

READ MORE: Mueller charges Manafort & Gates with laundering over $30mn in Ukraine lobbying income

Manafort has not pleaded guilty. Moreover, he filed a lawsuit against Mueller on the grounds that his indictment violated the scope of the investigation.

Earlier this month, a memo put together by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) raised questions about the legality of FBI’s request to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The memo alleged that the infamous ‘Steele dossier’ was essential to obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court approval for the surveillance of Page, and that the FBI failed to notify the court that the dossier was financed by the Clinton campaign via the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

While opponents were busy piling on the president, Trump’s supporters quickly rowed in behind his assertion that the Mueller probe is a ‘witch hunt.’

Despite a rush to judgement on both sides, even some Democrats managed to see through the bluster and agreed that the investigation has failed to produce any proof that Trump colluded with Russia.

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