Trump says he wouldn’t take Manafort pardon ‘off the table’

Trump claims dirty tactics employed by the special counsel pressured witnesses to lie

A pardon for Paul Manafort is “not off the table,” President Donald Trump said, drawing swift rebuke from critics who fear the president 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 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, the president, 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.

RELATED: Ex-Trump campaign boss Manafort pleads guilty

On Thursday, Trump likened the Russia probe to Sen. Joe McCarthy’s pursuit of communists in the 1950s. “When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end-or will it just go on forever?” he tweeted.

When asked about a pardon for Manafort, Trump told the newspaper: “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 prosecution for state charges, though he is not currently facing any.

On Wednesday, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said that if Trump pardons Manafort, it would be a “blatant and unacceptable abuse of power.”

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia 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 co-operator and one that raises the prospect that Manafort could be angling for a pardon.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined comment.

RELATED: Trump denies wrongdoing, says Cohen is making up stories

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.

Both men have been heavily critical of the investigation, and Corsi this week said he had rejected a plea offer from Mueller’s team. Draft plea documents show Mueller accusing Corsi of lying to investigators — an allegation he denies — about emails he exchanged with Stone regarding WikiLeaks.

U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Russia was the source of hacked material from Democratic organizations that WikiLeaks released during the 2016 presidential campaign. That included thousands of stolen emails from the private account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Mueller is investigating whether any Trump associates had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.

Mueller earlier this week said Manafort could face additional charges related to lies they say 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. But a federal judge set a hearing for Friday in which she will hear from both sides about next steps in the case. That hearing could yield new details about the status of the Russia probe.

Manafort faces up to five years in prison on the two charges in his plea agreement — conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He faces a separate sentencing in Virginia set for February after he was convicted on eight felony counts during a trial last summer.

Chad Day, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER: Support for music and arts industry critical during COVID, says MLA

A Maple Ridge-Mission politician talks about the current state of the entertainment world

Spike of bear calls to Conservation Officer Service prompts calls for prevention

‘We want to do everything we can beforehand to reduce conflict,’ said Sgt. Todd Hunter

Pitt Meadows mayor responds to petition to halt development of North Lougheed Study Area

A petition with 628 signatures was put before city council on Tuesday evening

Searching for isolated seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows with music and dance

Seniors outreach team at Ridge Meadows Seniors Society came up with a pop up jukebox

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping The News to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Death toll rises in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

Number has risen to 22, making it the worst to date in B.C.

Fraser Valley libraries to offer contactless hold pick-ups

FVRL Express — Click, Pick, Go service to be offered at all 25 locations starting June 1

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

COLUMN: Canada needs to remember rural communities as thoughts turn to pandemic recovery

Small towns often rely on tourism, which has been decimated by COVID-19

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Most Read