President Trump declined to say in an interview broadcast Thursday whether he would pardon his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort but said some of the charges brought against him were for common practices among Washington lobbyists and consultants.
Trump voiced “great respect” for Manafort, whom a federal jury convicted on eight counts this week, and voiced sympathy for “what he’s gone through.” The interview aired on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”
Manafort was convicted Tuesday of two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.
“I would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does,” Trump said.
The jury in Alexandria, Va., that convicted Manafort deadlocked on 10 other charges.
During the Fox interview, conducted Wednesday at the White House, host Ainsley Earhardt asked Trump whether he would pardon Manafort. He did not directly answer, instead expressing respect for his long career in politics.
“I have great respect for what he’s done,” Trump said. “You know, he worked for Ronald Reagan for years; he worked for Bob Dole; he worked — I guess his firm worked for [Sen. John] McCain. He worked for many, many people, many, many years.”
Trump also suggested that prosecutors had not been as aggressive in pursuing Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who was not charged following an FBI investigation of her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
During tweets on Wednesday, Trump also praised his former campaign chairman, saying he was a “brave man” who “refused to ‘break’ ” during his prosecution.
In his tweets, Trump sought to contrast Manafort’s posture with that of Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and fixer, who on Tuesday entered a guilty plea in a Manhattan federal court on eight counts.
Two of those counts implicated Trump directly, with Cohen saying he arranged to pay off two women to keep their stories of alleged affairs with Trump from becoming public before Election Day — in coordination with the then-candidate.
During the Fox interview, Trump said Cohen had agreed to plead guilty to those two campaign finance violations to get a better deal on other charges unrelated to his relationship with Trump.
“That’s why he did it. He made a very good deal,” Trump said.
“It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal,” the president added. “They make up things and now they go from 10 years to they’re a national hero. They have a statue erected in their honor. It’s not a fair thing, but that’s why he did it.”
Trump also contended that the two campaign finance counts to which Cohen pleaded guilty are not crimes.
“He pled to two counts which aren’t crimes, which nobody understands,” Trump claimed.
The president also sought to downplay the extent of his relationship with his longtime personal lawyer.
“He worked for me, you could really say it was more or less part time,” Trump said. “He had other businesses. He had other clients. I’m not his only client.”