Fri, Nov 30, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Trump says pardon for former adviser Paul Manafort is ‘not off the table’


A pardon for Paul Manafort is “not off the table,” US President Donald Trump said, drawing swift rebuke from critics who fear he will use his executive power to protect friends and supporters caught up in the Russia probe.

The president’s discussion of a possible pardon in an interview on Wednesday with the New York Post came days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort had breached his plea deal by repeatedly lying to investigators.

The former Trump campaign chairman denies that he lied.

Trump’s remarks are the latest sign of his disdain for the Russia investigation, which has dogged him for two years and ensnared members of his inner circle.

In recent weeks, Trump, armed with inside information provided to his lawyers by Manafort’s legal team, has sharpened his attacks, seizing on what he claims are dirty tactics employed by the special counsel and accusing investigators of pressuring witnesses to lie.

In the interview with the Post, Trump likened the Russia probe to then-US senator Joe McCarthy’s pursuit of communists in the 1950s.

“We are in the McCarthy era. This is no better than McCarthy,” he said.

When asked about a pardon for Manafort, Trump said: “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?”

Trump only has the power to pardon for federal charges. A pardon would not shield Manafort from state charges, though he is not currently facing any.

The top Democrat on the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said that if Trump pardons Manafort, it would be a “blatant and unacceptable abuse of power.”

US Senator Mark Warner said in a tweet that the president’s pardon power is not a “personal tool” that Trump can use to protect “himself and his friends.”

Meanwhile, Manafort’s lawyers have been briefing Trump’s attorneys in recent months on what their client has told investigators, an unusual arrangement for a government cooperator and one that raises the prospect that Manafort could be angling for a pardon.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined comment.

In the Post interview, Trump also praised two other supporters who are caught up in the Russia probe — conservative author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and longtime Trump associate Roger Stone. He said they were “very brave” for resisting Mueller’s investigation.

Mueller earlier this week said Manafort could face additional charges related to lies his team says he told investigators in the nearly three months since he cut a plea deal.

Neither Manafort nor Mueller’s team has said what Manafort is accused of lying about.

On Tuesday, Manafort adamantly denied a report in the Guardian newspaper that he had met secretly with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange about March 2016.

That is the same month Manafort joined the Trump campaign and Russian hackers began an effort to penetrate the e-mail accounts of former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The developments thrust Manafort back into the investigation spotlight, raising new questions about what he knows and what prosecutors say he might be attempting to conceal as they probe Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump associates in Trump’s campaign.

Besides denying he had ever met Assange, Manafort said he told Mueller’s prosecutors the truth during questioning.

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