WORLD Trump fuels Manafort pardon speculation, attacks Cohen

WORLD

Trump fuels Manafort pardon speculation, attacks Cohen

CGTN

01:51, August 24, 2018

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Under pressure after twin courtroom blows, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday hit back in customary fashion by lashing out on Twitter and sitting down for a Fox News interview.

The US president put an emphasis on loyalty as he tweeted admiration for "brave" Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chair who was found guilty of eight counts of financial wrongdoing on Tuesday but is understood to have refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

"I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family," Trump tweeted. "‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ - make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

Cohen, Trump's former lawyer who, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors on Tuesday, claimed the president directed him to commit a crime, was castigated.

Pardon for Manafort?

Manafort, 65, could be jailed for the rest of his life following eight convictions for bank and tax fraud.

The former lobbyist's refusal to cooperate with prosecutors has led to speculation that he is holding out for a pardon from Trump, and the president indicated in his Fox News interview that "he would consider" such a move according to reporter Ainsley Earhardt. 

"I have great respect for what he's done in terms of what he's gone through," Trump told Earhardt. "I would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does."

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Trump and his current lawyer Rudy Giuliani have discussed the repercussions of pardoning Manafort.

Such a move would be hugely divisive in the current political climate and ahead of November's midterm elections, not least because he was convicted by a jury of his peers.

Trump has granted numerous reprieves since coming to office, including to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza and controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The pardon is one of the least checked powers of the US presidency – it can be used for anyone convicted of a federal crime, and cannot be used to prevent impeachment.

No pardon for Cohen

Cohen's lawyer Nanny Davis, in a round of media interviews on Wednesday, insisted that his client had no interest in a pardon even in the unlikely event one was to be offered.

"Mr. Cohen is not interested in being dirtied by a pardon from such a man," Davis told NPR.

Davis also reiterated that his client had information that would be of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign team.

Meanwhile, New York investigators on Wednesday issued a subpoena to Cohen in connection with a criminal investigation into the Trump Foundation.

Trump denies wrongdoing

Cohen claims Trump directed him to arrange payments ahead of the 2016 presidential election to silence two women who said they had had affairs with the then businessman.

Trump insisted in the interview with Fox News that the campaign violations he is accused of are not a crime, and went on to compare his case with a campaign violation by the Obama 2008 campaign. 

The president says he paid Cohen out of personal funds and that the payments were not intended to benefit his campaign but to resolve a personal matter.

"They weren't taken out of campaign finance. That's a big thing," Trump told Fox. "They didn't come out of the campaign; they came from me."

However, the critics say that argument doesn't stack up for Trump given the timing – only weeks before the 2016 election.

"If this was a personal matter, why wasn’t she paid off after the affair or in the intervening decade?" Paul S. Ryan, the head of litigation at Common Cause, told Reuters. "The election was what made her story valuable."

Photos: CGTN

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