The Federalist: Chuck Todd got his MSNBC pals together on “Meet the Press Daily” to have a serious, objective, and intellectual discussion of foreign policy and politics. Just kidding.
The Senate Intelligence Committee had just announced it found “no direct evidence” of collusion between President Trump and Russia. Democrats dispute this, without giving much reason why, which is a story in itself.
But Todd and his panel largely ignored that. They were laser-focused on former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s legal troubles, which is supposedly the next bombshell in the Russia investigation. Earlier this week, a federal judge found that Manafort lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, breaking his plea agreement with Mueller’s team.
One of the things Manafort allegedly lied about was his interactions with his longtime business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national, while Manafort was Trump campaign chairman. That Manafort worked with Kilimnik for years is not news. Several years before his work on the Trump campaign, Manafort, along with many other D.C. types including connected Democrats, did a lot of work for Ukraine’s then Russia-backed government.
But Manafort’s meeting with Kilimnik is supposed to be nefarious. Manafort met Kilimnik on August 2, 2016, just weeks before Manafort was fired from the Trump campaign after it emerged that Manafort had long before received undisclosed money from Ukraine’s pro-Russia government. During the meeting with Kilimnik, Mueller’s team alleges that Manafort discussed a plan for peace in Ukraine with Kilimnik, which CNN said “could have had ramifications on U.S. sanctions against Russia.”
Now Manafort faces decades in prison for crimes including and stemming from not paying his taxes and not registering as a lobbyist for a foreign government, which occurred years before he joined the Trump campaign. But back to Todd’s panel.
Todd focused on the “importance of this meeting” with Kilimnik that occurred in a cigar bar. After painting the meeting as without-question nefarious with the help of “Former Senior FBI Official” Chuck Rosenberg, Todd pivoted to paint Trump as a Russian stooge:
Chuck Todd: You know, the other part of this [cigar bar meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik] was how President Trump as a candidate in that same period… August 2nd is the meeting… Here is Donald Trump on July 31st, obviously two days earlier on a Sunday show, being asked about Ukraine. Take a listen.
Then, a clip rolls of Trump’s interview with George Stephanopoulos on July 31, 2016:
Trump: That whole part of the world is a mess under Obama, with all the strength that you’re talking about, and all of the power of NATO and all of this, in the meantime he’s going away [Vladimir Putin] takes Crimea…
George Stephanopoulos: But you said you might recognize that.
Trump: I’m going to take a look at it, but you know the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia from what they were and you have to look at that also.
The flashback ends, and back at the MSNBC studio Todd asks the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, “Who would it be in telling Donald Trump, at the middle of July, that giving him that Kremlin talking point, that most of those people speak Russian? Was it Mike Flynn, was it Paul Manafort?” more