"This may be one of the most important monologues I ever give on this show."
That's how Sean Hannity started his Fox News show on Monday night, weaving in and out of conspiracy theories involving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (whom he referred to as "President Clinton") in an attempt to distract his audience from charges against three former Trump advisers.
On what the Associated Press described as "black Monday for Donald Trump's White House," former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his protege Rick Gates, who also worked on the campaign, were charged for allegedly funneling payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their private political work in Ukraine. In addition, authorities disclosed that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor on Trump's campaign, had admitted to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia — the first criminal case featuring interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
A fuming Hannity, Trump's most devoted cheerleader on cable news, set out to argue that, despite the charges, there was "zero evidence of Trump-Russia collusion." Instead, he spent the better part of the hour ignoring the "pathetic" indictment and focusing instead on the candidate who ultimately lost to Trump.
"This is beyond insanity and it's inexcusable. Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, the Obama Administration allowed your national security to be compromised in what is an unprecedented way and few in the media will touch this story," Hannity said, "Major crimes were committed. They knew about it. They did nothing before the deal."
Hannity referred many times to the complicated Uranium One deal, which conservative media figures have been hyping up in an attempt to undermine Mueller's credibility (he was FBI director at the time the deal was initiated). Hannity also brought up the notorious Trump dossier, which was funded during the election by Republicans opposed to Trump, the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
Hannity focused on the last two funders.
"Of course, they use Russian sources, bought and paid for by Hillary, the DNC and Obama to smear Trump and influence the election with Russian lies," Hannity said. "Probably the biggest scandal of all is Bill and Hillary Clinton selling out America's national security to Putin and the Russians."
Trump was watching TV and ‘seething’
In July, President Trump tweeted that he was so focused on policy debates over health care and tax reform that he didn't have much time to watch television.
On Monday, the president found time to watch the unfolding coverage of charges being filed against three of his former campaign staffers, and according to multiple reports, he wasn't to pleased.
"Watching the developments unfold on the large TV screens installed in his private residence, Trump was 'seething,' according to a Republican close to the White House," reported CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak, who wrote that Papadopoulos' guilty plea was unexpected and stirred unease within the White House.
CNN also reported the Trump grew increasingly frustrated as he believed cable news was inflating his former aides' roles in his campaign.
In a piece citing 20 sources, The Washington Post reported that Trump watched the news coverage from his private third-story residence "with exasperation and disgust."
Trump continued to refer to Mueller's investigation Tuesday as "fake news" and falsely claimed that Manafort's and Gates' alleged activities occurred before they joined Trump's campaign.
Ex-Trump adviser says he ‘may have’ discussed Russia
"Congrats for not being indicted!"
That's how MSNBC host Chris Hayes welcomed his guest, Carter Page, on Monday night. Page, a foreign policy adviser on Trump's 2016 president campaign, said he may have exchanged emails about Russia with a controversial figure whose guilty plea in Mueller's Russia investigation made shockwaves on Monday.
"It may have come up, yeah," Page told Hayes when asked if he had discussed Russia during the campaign with Papadopoulos, who admitted to lying to the FBI about communications he had during the campaign with officials who were identified as agents of the Russian government.
Page, who is scheduled to testify before a House intelligence committee panel on Thursday, told a stunned Hayes that he "might have been" on email threads with Papadopoulos in which Russia "may have come up from time to time." Page said nothing major was discussed.
Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, which was shortly after Papadopoulos forwarded a request to his supervisor in the campaign from Russian officials interested in meeting with then-candidate Trump.
"I definitely did not represent anyone from the Trump campaign during my trip, and was always there just as a private citizen," Page said.