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Hours after indictments against Russian nationals on charges of election meddling were announced, President Donald Trump finally emerged from the White House on Friday afternoon to board Marine One. Reporters on the scene shouted questions at him, and a line from their pool report sums up the kind of day the president has had: “He gave a thumbs up and seemed to yell something that we couldn’t hear over the noise from the helicopter. He ignored questions about Russia and affairs with women.”
A few hours before the indictments were announced, The New Yorker had published an explosive story outlining how Trump allegedly used financial transactions and legal help to cover up multiple affairs. Many speculated that the story was the reason Melania Trump opted not to join her husband aboard Marine One on their way to Air Force One.
Once aboard Marine One and away from reporters, Trump took out his phone to fire off a tweet emphatically claiming that the indictment announcement proved there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.
Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018
Trump’s tweet appears to misread the indictment, which revealed that some of the Russians had been in contact with “unwitting individuals” from the Trump campaign. As Mother Jones predicted earlier, the president’s declaration of vindication is a misinterpretation of the fact that these initial charges don’t include collusion. (In announcing the indictment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was careful to emphasize that no Americans were implicated in the scheme in the current indictment, but did not preclude further indictments that would include Americans.) The tweet was also significant in that Trump characterized Russian interference efforts as an “anti-US campaign,” after having previously dismissed them as a hoax.