WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’s not concerned about what his former campaign chairman is telling investigators in the Russia probe.
Trump told reporters at the White House that if Paul Manafort tells the truth to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team then he doesn’t see a problem. Trump also batted away a question about whether he was considering a pardon for Manafort.
“I don’t want to talk about it now,” the president said.
Trump’s comments come just days after Manafort ended his nearly yearlong fight against Mueller. Manafort pleaded guilty to two felony charges related to his unregistered Ukrainian lobbying and millions of dollars he laundered through offshore accounts. The plea headed off a second trial for Manafort less than a month after he was convicted on eight other counts of filing false tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud.
The plea deal provided Mueller with a key cooperator in Manafort, who led the Trump campaign for several crucial months and has extensive knowledge of powerful Russian and Ukrainian businessmen heavily involved in their country’s politics.
Manafort will also be debriefed by investigators about his time on the campaign as Mueller continues to investigate Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Trump associates.
Those questions will almost certainly include Manafort’s account of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer that was attended by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The meeting has drawn scrutiny because it was described to Trump Jr. in emails as part of a Russian government effort to help the campaign. Trump Jr. was told the lawyer had damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. and the president have downplayed the meeting, saying it was a waste of time and didn’t amount to anything. But other attendees of the meeting have been before a grand jury used by Mueller, and the special counsel has been scrutinizing a public statement the president was involved in drafting when The New York Times publicly revealed the meeting in July 2017.
That statement said the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program and omitted any mention of Trump Jr. being promised information on Clinton.
On Wednesday, Trump said he’s not worried about Manafort’s cooperation.
“Paul Manafort was with me for a short period of time. He did a good job. I was, you know, very happy with the job he did,” Trump said. “And I will tell you this: I believe that he will tell the truth and if he tells the truth, no problem.”
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