In an interview with the New York Post, Trump said a presidential pardon for Manafort — who last summer was convicted of eight crimes involving lying and cheating — was “not off the table.”
“It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” said Trump.
Manafort faces spending the rest of his life in prison. In August, he was convicted of eight felony counts including tax fraud and bank fraud. In September, Manafort signed a plea deal with Mueller, in exchange for his cooperation with the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Mueller is looking into whether Trump or his associates conspired with Russia to swing the 2016 election.
On Monday, Mueller announced that he was canceling the plea deal for Manafort because he had lied to Mueller’s team repeatedly, “on a variety of matters.” Since then, reports surfaced that Manafort had been double-dealing, informing the president’s lawyers about goings-on in the Russia probe.
On Wednesday, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani admitted that Manafort’s attorneys had provided Trump’s legal team with information and “defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed,” the New York Times reported.
Some legal experts say that the information relay between teams Manafort and Trump could result in charges of obstruction of justice or witness tampering.
“When Paul Manafort pleaded guilty, he signed a cooperation agreement with the government,” said former federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg on MSNBC. “He switched from the Red Sox to the Yankees. It would be like playing for the Yankees, and now giving the Red Sox scouting reports. You can’t do that.”
On CNN Tuesday, Giuliani said he and Trump had last discussed a Manafort pardon in the spring but decided not to move forward at that time. “The last time we talked pardon was April or May, when I first came on,” said Giuliani. “We decided it should be off the boards — not exercised now and no one should make a decision based on any expectation.”