WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump reiterated on Thursday his support for his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whom a federal jury found guilty of fraud and several financial crimes earlier this week, but he avoided mentioning a possible pardon in an interview broadcast by Fox News.
Trump said he had “great respect” for Manafort and for “what he’s done ... what he’s gone through.”
“You know, he worked for (President) Ronald Reagan for years, he worked for (Sen.) Bob Dole, ... I guess his firm worked for (Sen. John) McCain,” the president said. “He worked for many, many people, many, many years.”
Although these remarks certainly demonstrate Trump’s closeness to Manafort, they are far from the claim Fox News interviewer Ainsley Earhardt made after talking with the president, saying that he was considering pardoning his former campaign chief.
When Earhardt previewed the airing of her interview with Trump on Fox, she said that “He mentioned pardoning Manafort,” adding that she thought the president felt bad for the campaign boss and saying that they were “friends” who worked together for 100 days and Trump knew nothing about Manafort’s tax problems.
The journalist’s claim led other media outlets to report that Trump was considering providing a pardon for Manafort, who was found guilty on Tuesday of eight of the 18 counts of tax and bank fraud against him and, when sentenced, could spend the rest of his life in prison.
However, the full broadcast of the interview, of which only excerpts had been aired on Wednesday, revealed that Trump did not say that he was thinking about issuing a pardon.
After the guilty verdicts handed down against him, it remains to be seen if Manafort will seek to cooperate with investigators in the Russia probe to reduce his sentence or whether he will gamble on receiving a presidential pardon, a move by Trump that could ignite a political firestorm.
Since May 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been independently investigating the potential links between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and the Kremlin to favor his presidential candidacy.
If Trump were to pardon Manafort, it could be considered an attempt to impede Mueller’s investigation, which appears to be methodically inching closer and closer to the president himself.