The results of Thursday’s Paul Manafort sentencing hearing might have been shocking to most legal observers, but they were certainly pleasing to Donald Trump. In a Friday morning appearance, Trump insisted that Judge Ellis “said there was no collusion. This had nothing to do with Russia. This had nothing to do with collusion. There was no collusion. It’s a collusion hoax. It’s a collusion witch hoax. I don’t collude with Russia.” And Trump noted that both Manafort’s attorney and the judge “went out of their way” to state there was no collusion.
Which isn’t exactly true. In the ruling, Judge Ellis actually made the statement that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election.” That’s a statement that applies to the charges Manafort faced sentencing on on Thursday. It says absolutely nothing about whether Trump, or even Manafort, actually engaged in a conspiracy with Russia to influence the outcome of a U.S. election.
But Trump was right about one thing. Ellis did go out of his way to make this statement. It didn’t require Manafort’s attorneys or the special counsel to introduce the idea. Ellis spoke up before either side had so much as mentioned Russia or the campaign. Which speaks to Ellis’ disdain for the whole idea of the special counsel and his eagerness to give Manafort the lightest possible sentence.
Trump, who spent the morning tweeting about “Presidential harassment,” was quick to merge the statements from Ellis with statements from Republican Rep. Devin Nunes and Sen. Richard Burr. Then he went off to see the “first class treatment” FEMA is delivering to Alabama, with his trademark smirk firmly in place.
While Trump’s statements may strike most people as distorted, rambling, and semi-deranged, one thing is clear: By Friday afternoon, Republicans will be proclaiming that the phrase is “witch hoax.” It was always witch hoax. Any anyone who says anything else is a liar.