Two former members of Donald Trump’s inner circle agreed this year to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump Organization vice president Michael Cohen. Both are now convicted felons.
Manafort, who “flipped” on Trump but was apparently trying to play both sides simultaneously, has no doubt noticed that the president is dangling the possibility of a pardon. In fact, just this morning, indifferent to concerns about the appearance of obstructing justice, Trump told reporters, “The question was asked yesterday about pardons with respect to Paul Manafort, who, it’s very sad what’s happened to Paul, the way he’s being treated. I’ve never seen anybody treated so poorly.”
“He was convicted of a fairly long-term sentence on things totally unrelated to the Trump organization…. He’s a weak person, and by being weak, unlike other people that you watch, he’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence. […]
“Here’s the thing. even if he was right, it doesn’t matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign.”
That last point, at face value, may seem vaguely compelling. After all, before taking office, Trump was a private citizen. If he wanted to pursue a possible business venture in Moscow while running for president, he was well within his rights to do so.
“There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business and why should I lose lots of opportunities,” he added this morning.
The trouble, of course, is that this doesn’t explain all of the lying. Why would the president spend months denying business deals with Russia if it “doesn’t matter”?
A reporter also asked the president. “If Cohen is such a bum, why did you hire him and have him on your payroll for 12 years and have him do so much of your dirty work?”
Trump replied, “Because a long time ago, he did me a favor. A long time ago he did me a favor.”
He didn’t elaborate.