GOP strategist struggles to defend Trump lies on Russia meeting: ‘Nobody thinks this is awesome’
Noelle Nikpour (MSNBC)

A downcast Republican strategist struggled to defend the shifting stories coming out of the White House about President Donald Trump's involvement in a misleading statement covering his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Noelle Nikpour appeared Tuesday morning on "MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle," where she discussed the witness tampering allegations against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- who she wrote off as a "bad actor."

"It sounds like Paul Manafort breaking away from the campaign was really doing his own side deals and was a bad actor from the beginning," Nikpour said, "and was probably going to use the Trump campaign and if elected the Trump presidency to cut a whole bunch of -- a slew of other deals."

Ruhle asked if she meant Manafort was a straight-up criminal or a bad actor "like the cast of Mall Cop."

"Yes, Stephanie, if you want me to go out there and say criminal -- he's a bad dude, he's a bad actor and he's a criminal," Nikpour conceded.

Ruhle asked what wealthy Republican donors thought about the shifting explanations about Trump taking part in a misleading statement under investigation by the special counsel as possible obstruction of justice.

"Well, you know, it's a very difficult position," Nikpour stammered. "I'm not going to lie to you and say this is awesome and we're all drinking the Kool-Aid."

Nikpour struggled to justify the shifting explanations, and conceded only that the apparent dishonesty was nothing but "bad optics."

"But you've got to -- look, it's bad optics," she said. "This is all bad optics. Nobody's happy with it that now somebody is saying one thing while now somebody else is saying another thing and they're having to scramble and go a different direction. But to my knowledge there's nothing illegal about what has happened, there's nothing illegal about President Trump, you know, helping, putting a hand in drafting a memo. There's nothing illegal, but it's bad."

She admits that she didn't feel good about relaying GOP talking points on TV shows.

"So I think what it is is the fact that as a Republican, as somebody that's representing the Republican talking point, as somebody who comes on these shows, when you present this, it's not good," Nikpouor said. "I'm not going to sit up here and say, well, that's okay -- it was all a big mistake. Your viewers aren't going to buy that, I'm going to get hammered."

"Even in the GOP, nobody thinks this is awesome and he forgot, but if you're looking at this from a legal point, nothing illegal, you know, has been committed," she continued. "But if you're looking at this as a branding or looking at this, you know, as a dark smudge on the Republican Party, I think a lot of people are a little upset that maybe people can't get all their stories straight."