President Donald Trump on Sunday questioned why the Justice Department or FBI did not notify him during the campaign that Paul Manafort was under investigation, insisting that Manafort would have never been hired if he had known.
“As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign?” Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday morning. “Should have told me!”
In a second tweet, Trump downplayed Manafort’s role on his campaign, saying the Republican strategist “came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time,” but “we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!”
Manafort left Trump’s campaign in August 2016 after a brief tenure as chairman after he came under scrutiny for his lobbying history overseas, particularly in Ukraine, where he represented pro-Russian interests. Manafort has been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on charges that include alleged bank fraud and foreign lobbying violations, to which he has pleaded not guilty. The charges have come as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any potential ties between the Russia and Trump campaign associates.
Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg responded to Trump’s tweets by saying the President was demonstrating “selective memory” about the reasons for Manafort’s hiring.
“Donald, Nice selective memory,” Nunberg wrote on Twitter. “You hired Paul because you were losing the delegate fight during the primary. If you stuck with Lewandowski, you wouldn’t have been the nominee. You’re lucky Paul worked for you.”
Manafort, a longtime Washington fixture, was brought onto Trump’s campaign in March 2016 to help Trump win enough delegates to secure the nomination at the upcoming Republican National Convention. He was promoted to campaign chairman and chief strategist in May 2016, and after clashing behind the scenes with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Lewandoswki was fired several weeks later. Manafort resigned that August when reports came out about his overseas lobbying efforts.
The FBI’s investigation into possible links between the Russian government and Trump campaign officials began in July 2016. CNN reported that Manafort was under FBI surveillance before and after the election.
Last October, as part of Mueller’s Russia investigation, Manafort was indicted on a slew of federal crimes stemming from his past lobbying work. He currently faces several counts of alleged money laundering and lying to federal authorities.
Manafort is scheduled for trial in Washington, DC, in September and faces a separate set of bank fraud and other financial charges in Virginia, for a trial set to begin in July. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.