As Manafort considers his options, Trump weighs in

Image: FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court
FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Now that he's a convicted felon, Paul Manafort has a new opportunity to weigh some of his dwindling options. Indeed, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman could reconsider the opportunity to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade explored this in some detail last night, telling Rachel that if Manafort -- who still faces another trial next month -- were to work out a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he could get a reduced sentence, or perhaps even see the rest of the remaining charges dismissed.

It's against this backdrop that the president took some time this morning to offer some public praise for his former campaign chair via Twitter.

"I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. '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!"

The context of this is extraordinary. The man who led the president's political operation has an opportunity to reconsider whether to cooperate with federal investigators, who have increased leverage now that Manafort has been convicted on eight counts. Trump, of course, doesn't want his former aide to "flip."

And so, the president turned to Twitter this morning to praise Manafort, mock his own Justice Department, and emphasize the importance of not "breaking" under pressure.

It's as if Trump believes obstructing justice through tweets doesn't really count.

Rudy Giuliani said last month, "If you're going to obstruct justice, you do it quietly and secretly, not in public." Trump is putting this thesis to the test in highly provocative ways.

Postscript: The president added this morning, "A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!"

I don't imagine this was intended as humor, but it was funny all the same. Trump effectively declared that the man who led his political operation has only been convicted of eight felonies -- so Trump feels some sense of vindication.