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

Sylvan Lake man’s documentary getting limited run in Alberta theatres

Scott McDermott’s documentary will be in 14 theatres, including Sylvan Lake and Wetaskiwin

UPDATE: Thorsby RCMP investigate August long weekend shooting

Thorsby RCMP charge youth in relation to the late night shooting.

Seven vying to lead ECN

Challengers to incumbent include NGCI president

Two females arrested for carjacking in Leduc; sword and bear spray used as weapon

Wetaskiwin and Maskwacis female arrested for carjacking.

94 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, two more deaths

1,146 active cases with 9,891 recovered cases

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gathered in Wetaskiwin, Alta. Tuesday August 4,… Continue reading

Other communities can learn from Sexsmith: AUMA president

Alberta Urban Municipalities Association is an advocacy group for urban municipalities

Proposed oil and gas assessment changes could have big impact on municipal revenues

Croup representing urban municipalities is concerned about the outcome

‘Do our lives count for less?’: COVID-19 exposes cracks in disability aid

In July, Parliament approved a $600 payment for people with disabilities facing additional expenses during COVID-19

Alberta man’s body recovered from Okanagan Lake after five-day search

‘The depth of the water, as well as the topography of the lake, made the recovery of the deceased very challenging’ - RCMP

Feds look to finalize deal with airlines amid contact tracing concerns

Feds look to finalize deal with airlines amid contact tracing concerns

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Booking.com cuts workforce by thousands as travel atrophies

Booking.com cuts workforce by thousands as travel atrophies

Ford COO Jim Farley to lead company, CEO Hackett to retire

Ford COO Jim Farley to lead company, CEO Hackett to retire

Most Read