President Trump said Friday that the jailing of his former campaign manager in advance of his trial was “a tough sentence,” charging that a federal judge’s decision to respond to allegations of witness tampering was “very unfair.”
Trump shared his thoughts on Twitter less than two hours after a judge ordered Manafort sent to jail in response to allegations of witness tampering while awaiting trial on conspiracy and money-laundering charges brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
“Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob.”
Trump then took aim at former FBI director James B. Comey and his 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, noting their different fates. Trump has been highly critical of Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state and the way Comey handled the FBI investigation into the Clinton email issue that ended without charges.
“What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!” Trump said on Twitter.
The order to jail Manafort was issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia.
Shortly before, Trump, who has embraced his power to pardon federal convicts in recent weeks, sought to distance himself from Manafort as he talked to reporters at the White House.
“Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign,” Trump said, adding that he felt “a little badly” that prosecutors were targeting the longtime Republican operative for actions taken more than a decade ago.
“You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time,” Trump said, before ticking off other Republican presidential nominees with whom Manafort has been affiliated. “He worked for Ronald Reagan, he worked for Bob Dole, he worked for John McCain or his firm did. He worked for many other Republicans. He worked for me for what? For 49 days or something? A very short period of time.”
In fact, Manafort served 144 days as Trump’s campaign chairman. He was hired in late March 2016 and resigned in mid-August of that year — a stretch that included the Republican convention where Trump was formally nominated.
At the hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia ordered Manafort jailed after he was accused of witness tampering while awaiting trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Prosecutors alleged that by committing a new crime while on release, Manafort violated terms of his home confinement in Alexandria, Va., and they asked the judge to revoke or revise it.
Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in what prosecutors say was a broader conspiracy to launder more than $30 million over a decade of undisclosed lobbying for a former pro-Russian politician and party in Ukraine.
In his remarks to reporters — part of a freewheeling gaggle on an array of subjects — Trump suggested he felt bad not only for Manafort but for others with ties to his presidency who are now facing legal action.
“I feel badly for some people because they’ve gone back 12 years to find things about somebody, and I don’t think it’s right that they burst into a lawyer’s office on a weekend and early in the morning,” Trump said, in an apparent reference to his personal attorney Michael Cohen, who is facing two federal investigations.
FBI agents raided Cohen’s home and office in Manhattan in April.
“I’ve never heard of that before,” Trump said. “I mean, could you imagine if they burst into Barack Obama’s lawyer’s office. It would not be acceptable. I mean, that’s really a terrible thing.”
“I feel badly for a lot of those people. I feel badly for General Flynn,” the president continued, referring to his short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“He’s lost his house,” Trump said. “He’s lost his life, and some people say he’s lied. Some people say he didn’t lie. I mean, really it turned out maybe he didn’t lie.”