FILE PHOTO: President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort departs U.S. District Court after a motions hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., May 4,...
Jonathan Ernst

Trump pretends to barely know the man who led his campaign

Updated

It’s going to be a very big day for Paul Manafort, the suspected criminal who ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. Manafort, who was already facing multiple criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was recently accused of witness tampering. A longtime Manafort associate, a Russian intelligence operative named Konstantin Kilimnik, was also indicted last week.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/8/18, 9:00 PM ET

Mueller adds to Manafort's charges, indicts Russian operative too

Rachel Maddow reports on special counsel Robert Mueller adding more charges to Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s case, including joint charges with Konstantine Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence operative who has worked with Manafort for years.
As you’ve likely seen Rachel explain on the show, Manafort is scheduled to be back in court today for an arraignment, and his bail agreement may be revised or revoked. Or put another way, the man who led the president’s political operation may find himself in jail later today.

Trump was asked about the legal developments this morning, and true to form, the president acted as if he barely knew Manafort, telling reporters:

“Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. I’ll tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?

“You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time…. He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something? A very short period of time.”

Asked about possible pardons, Trump added, “I don’t want to talk about that. But look, I do want to see people treated fairly. That’s what it’s all about.”

It was March 2017 when the White House first tried to dismiss Manafort as someone “who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” Fifteen months later, Trump has taken this line in a direction that would be hilarious if this weren’t so serious.

To the extent that reality matters, let’s do a little fact checking:

* “Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign.” That’s an interesting use of past and present tense, but Manafort chaired Trump’s campaign in 2016 and made frequent appearances on national television as a spokesperson for the Republican’s operation.

* “They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?” Some of the allegations against Manafort involve things he did in 2018.

* “He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something?” It was actually five months.

The fact that Trump is prepared to use his pardon power to ensure people are “treated fairly,” he seems to have argued Manafort was treated unfairly, and he’s making these comments publicly on the day of a Manafort arraignment, further suggests the president is playing a dangerous game.

Update: Manafort is going to jail.

Donald Trump

Trump pretends to barely know the man who led his campaign

Updated