President Donald Trump appeared baffled when questioned why he is surrounded by a “culture of lawlessness” following the arrest of another one of his close associates.
On Thursday Mr Trump was quizzed on his reaction to the arrest of his former advisor Steve Bannon, who was indicted the same day on conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering while raising money for a campaign to build the US-Mexico border wall.
The president was asked what he thought it meant that so many of his aides have been arrested since he took office in 2017.
“Respectfully, sir, it’s not just Steve Bannon. It’s Roger Stone, it’s Michael Flynn, it’s Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen,” a reporter said to Mr Trump, naming Trump administration and campaign officials who have been convicted on a variety of different charges.
“What’s that say about your judgment that these are the kind of people who you affiliated with, and the culture of lawlessness around people who were involved in the leadership of your 2016 campaign?”
Mr Trump began by saying, he “had no idea”, seemingly distancing himself from the controversy before shifting the discussion to the Obama Administration.
“There was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally,” he said.
Mr Trump continued to distance himself further from the scandal saying he “was not involved in the project” and he had no idea who was.
The president later clarified that he “didn’t know” about Mr Bannon’s involvement and he “didn’t know the other people”.
This is not the first time the president has been accused of being surrounded by criminal behaviour. In 2019 The Washington Post drew together “truly remarkable universe” of criminality “involving people linked to Mr Trump”.
Six prominent associates to the president have been convicted since Mr Trump took office, including his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, his White House national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and his campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Mr Bannon was indicted for allegedly funnelling “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from the “We Build the Wall” online fundraising campaign to Brian Kolfage, the founder of the organisation who was also indicted by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalising on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretence that all of that money would be spent on construction,” acting US attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release.