Wednesday’s White House press briefing got testy when Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to distance the administration from its former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Axios.com’s White House reporter Jonathan Swan asked Spicer about revelations concerning Manafort’s work on behalf of pro-Putin Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, which Spicer dismissed as irrelevant and compared to knowing who Manafort played with in the sandbox in primary school.
“[Pres. Trump] was not aware of Paul’s client in the last decade,” Spicer said. “What else is coming out? What else don’t we know? Where he went to school, who he went to grade school with, who he played with in the sandbox?”
When another reporter tried to interject, Spicer told him, “I’m answering a question, here.”
The reporter said, “I’m asking a question.”
“No, you’re not,” Spicer snapped. “The answer to your question is to talk about someone having a client ten years ago that had a consulting company with clients around the world.”
“I don’t know what he got paid to do,” Spicer continued. “He was a consultant, he had clients around the world. There was no suggestion he did anything improper but to suggest that the president knew who his clients were from a decade ago is a bit insane. He wasn’t a government employee, he did not fill out any paperwork attesting to something. There was nothing he did to suggest at this point that anything was nefarious, he was hired to do a job, he did it plain and simple.”
In fact, Manafort is being investigated for failure to register as a foreign agent with the federal government while receiving an alleged $12.7 million in payments from Russia-aligned Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych from 2005 to 2012.
Last summer, Manafort was reportedly targeted for blackmail by Ukrainian interests who threatened to blow the whistle about his connections to the Yanukovych regime. He and the Trump campaign parted ways two days later.
Spicer also claimed that the Trump campaign was “down 16 points” in the polls when it fired Manafort, but in fact, according Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert, the campaign was only behind by 5 points when Manafort was fired.
Watch the video, embedded below: