Trump’s week: Russia probe, Civil War history lesson, and more

From the indictments of ex-Trump aides to the president’s double standards on attacks, Al Jazeera highlights the key events the White House faced this week.

Trump departs for Asia
US President Donald Trump talks to the media before departing on his tour of Asia [Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP]

From new revelations from the Trump campaign-Russia investigation to a “rewrite” of Civil War history, Al Jazeera examines some of the key developments from the Trump administration last week.

1. The Trump-Russia probe just got real

Former Trump aides indicted

It was the moment everyone suspected was coming. Some just wondered who and when. On Monday, the first shoe dropped in what will undoubtedly be a series of indictments in the investigation over whether or not the presidential campaign of Donald Trump colluded with Russia.

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced the indictments of two former campaign staffers on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, making false statements and failure to report bank accounts.

Paul Manafort chaired the campaign during a critical time in the nomination process, overseeing the convention where Trump became the Republican nominee for president. Manafort’s colleague and partner, Rick Gates, was also indicted.

According to the court filings, the pair hid “tens of millions of dollars” from their work in Ukraine from 2006 through at least 2016 by laundering “the money through scores of US and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts”. Prior to joining the campaign, Manafort often worked for the pro-Russian government of Victor Yanukovych. 


Manafort’s lawyer reiterated on Monday that his client never colluded with Russia and his, “was seeking to further democracy and to help the Ukrainians come closer to the United States”.

The White House asserts the two men’s activities occurred outside their duties with the campaign.

There was no mention of the Trump campaign in the indictment.

Who is George Papadopoulos?

There were plenty of mentions of the Trump campaign in the third indictment of a relatively unknown Trump adviser. 

George Papadopoulos, third left, is seen in a photograph released on Donald Trump's Instagram account on April 1, 2016, with a headline saying it was taken during a campaign national security meeting in Washington, DC, March 31, 2016 [Instagram/@realDonaldTrump/AFP] 
George Papadopoulos, third left, is seen in a photograph released on Donald Trump’s Instagram account on April 1, 2016, with a headline saying it was taken during a campaign national security meeting in Washington, DC, March 31, 2016 [Instagram/@realDonaldTrump/AFP] 

The curious case of George Papadopoulos has raised concerns that he has valuable information the special counsel is now using to get to others from the Trump campaign.

On October 5, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators. That information was sealed until Monday.

Papadopoulos was a foreign policy adviser who joined the Trump campaign in March 2016.

Trump himself praised him as “an excellent guy”. 


Papadopoulos once appeared on Trump’s website at a national security roundtable meeting with the candidate.

According to Mueller, Papadopoulos presented himself to the Trump campaign as someone who had contacts in the Kremlin and reportedly said the Russians had “dirt” on Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.

He offered to act as a go-between with Moscow. At least one senior campaign staffer, according to the court documents, encouraged Papadopoulos to go to Russia to meet officials, “if it is feasible”.

Trump dismissed Papadopoulos as “a liar” on Twitter and the White House has painted him as a volunteer who attended one meeting with Trump and was quickly brushed aside.

Unbeknownst to the White House before Monday, however, is that Papadopoulos has been working with investigators and is described by Mueller as a “proactive cooperator”. Stay tuned.

Sam Clovis becomes a casualty of the investigation

He was a fixture on the Trump campaign early on and an important strategist for a man seeking wins in key states. But Sam Clovis, a top Trump adviser, also became a victim of the Mueller indictments this week.

On Thursday, he officially withdrew his nomination as chief scientist for the US Department of Agriculture after his lawyer confirmed he was the “campaign supervisor” named in the Papadopoulos case. 


According to the documents, the supervisor was in touch with Papadopoulos after his meetings with Russians and told him he had done “great work”.

The nomination of Clovis was also under heavy scrutiny because he lacked any real qualifications, listing his level of experience in natural sciences as “none”. His controversial views on climate change, racism and the public education system also raised concerns among Democratic congressmen who had already slowed his nomination.

2. Democrats ‘rigged’ the system in favour of Hillary

In a scathing hit piece in the publication, Politico, the former Democratic National Committee (DNC) interim chair confirmed what many people suspected: the Democratic nomination for president was rigged in Hillary Clinton’s favour.

Donna Brazile took over the chair in July 2016 and found a party deeply in debt but more importantly, completely rigged to ensure Clinton would get the nomination no matter what. According to Brazile, under a legal agreement signed a year earlier, the party was required to divert money to the Clinton campaign and away from other candidates, including her biggest opponent, Bernie Sanders


“This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity,” she wrote.

Brazile also wrote that she had to mentally prepare for a phone call to deliver the news to Sanders who contested Clinton all the way to the convention in July 2016.

The Brazile revelations have only emboldened Trump’s attacks on Clinton, whom he once promised to throw in jail.

“At some point, the justice department, and the FBI,” he Tweeted Friday, “must do what is right and proper.”

3. Trump’s double standards on attacks

Within two hours of Tuesday’s horrific truck attack in New York City, Donald Trump took to Twitter to condemn it as a “terrorist” incident.

Police said Saipov Sayfullo, an Uzbek national, carried out the attack in the name of ISIS“, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 


Saipov, 29, came to the US legally in 2010.

That was all the ammunition Trump needed to launch a 24-hour political offensive on immigrants and foreigners including a promise to shut down the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, signed into law by former Republican President George HW Bush. He also said he would consider sending Saipov to US-run detention prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Many people pointed out the stark contrast to his reaction to other attacks by white assailants in which the president’s reactions were muted and or cautious, even less political.

Following a shooting in Las Vegas by a white man just a few weeks earlier, in which 59 people were killed, and 500 others injured, Trump repeatedly cautioned anyone calling for gun control regulation.

“That’s for – at a later time,” he said three days after the shooting. 


Others also pointed to his response to the killing of a woman at a counterdemonstration during a white supremacist rally in August.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed after a man with ties to a white supremacist group allegedly rammed his car into a group of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence. Even when he denounced the attack, he said “there were very fine” people among the white supremacists and counterprotesters.

4. Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly ‘rewrites’ Civil War history

The US Civil War from 1860-1865 has always hung over American racial politics. 

But following a march in August by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia – sparked by the decision to tear down Civil War monuments – the conflict has fuelled a number of back-and-forth debates over its legacy by the Trump administration and the media. 


On Monday, Trump’s chief of staff, General John Kelly, ignited that debate again. In an interview with Fox News, Kelly said the Civil War – in which the southern Confederate Army took up arms to preserve the institution of slavery – was the result of a “lack of compromise”.

Critics blasted Kelly for wondering aloud if he was suggesting the US should have compromised on the issue of slavery. Many accused the chief of staff of “rewriting” history. 

Kelly also referred to Confederate Army General Robert E Lee as “an honourable man”.

The White House did not back down after Kelly’s remarks

“I am not going to get up here and relitigate the Civil War,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday.

“If some individuals engaged had been willing to come to some compromises on different things, then it may not have occurred.”

5. Trump heads to Asia

It will be Trump’s longest foreign trip so far – a 12-day excursion to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. 


On Friday morning, the US president took off for a region that has been a major focus of his ire.

In August, Trump set off alarm bells throughout Asia when he told reporters that any attempts by North Korea to develop a nuclear warhead would be met “with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before”.

Officials say Trump will reiterate his tough talk in Seoul next week while visiting a memorial to Americans who died on the peninsula in the Korean conflict of the 1950s.

Trump will also raise the issue of perceived unfair trade practices by China while in Beijing.

But all eyes will be on him when he meets Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila for the first time. Duterte rejected an invitation from Trump to visit the White House and criticised US congressmen for condemning his reported human rights abuses.

“I’ve seen America and it’s lousy,” Duterte said in July. 

Source: Al Jazeera