How not to respond to Paul Manafort's criminal indictment

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort departs a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, July 19, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort departs a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, July 19, 2016.

Corey Lewandowski, who helped lead Donald Trump's presidential campaign before Paul Manafort did, appeared on Fox Business Network this morning to talk about Manafort's criminal indictment. In the process, Lewandowski presented a new talking point: let's blame the FBI.

"If the public reports are true, and there was a time where Paul Manafort was under a FISA warrant before coming to the Trump campaign, why is it the FBI never reached out to me as the campaign manager, never reached out to Donald Trump, and said: 'Look, you might want to pause for a second and take a look before you bring this guy on board as a volunteer to hunt delegates to you,'" Lewandowski argued.

I see. So, it's not Trump World's fault they hired a suspected criminal to lead Trump's political operation; it's federal law enforcement's fault for not discouraging Trump World.

Given what we know about this presidency, the argument isn't exactly compelling. Team Trump knew Michael Flynn was under investigation, for example, but the president made him White House National Security Advisor anyway.

But even putting that aside, Trump World is also responding to the charges against Manafort with related unpersuasive arguments.

This was echoed by another source close to the White House, who told CNN that Manafort and Gates' behavior has little to do with the Trump campaign or the Russia investigation."These guys were bad guys when they started, they were bad guys when they left," the source said, adding, "It has nothing to do with any relationship to Russia."

This is one of those defenses that doesn't exactly come across as a defense.

The line makes it sound as if Trump hired "bad guys" to run his political operation, which may be true, but it's the sort of thing we'd expect the president's critics, not his allies, to emphasize.

I suppose the obvious follow-up question is, if "these guys were bad guys when they started," why exactly did Trump put them in charge?