President Donald Trump responded Wednesday to the guilty verdicts against his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was facing allegations of tax and bank fraud in the first trial stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The president tweeted that he feels “very badly” for Manafort after his former aide was found guilty on eight counts, including five counts of tax fraud. A mistrial was declared on 10 other counts after jurors could not reach a consensus. The former campaign manager was accused of defrauding banks on loan applications and of hiding at least $16 million from the IRS that he earned by advising politicians in Ukraine.
Trump briefly discussed Manafort on Tuesday evening after stepping off Air Force One in West Virginia, where he held a rally that night. He didn’t mention Manafort or his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to several crimes Tuesday, during the rally.
“I must tell you that Paul Manafort is a good man,” Trump told reporters before the rally. “He was with Ronald Reagan, he was with a lot of different people over the years, and I feel very sad about that.”
Days before the verdict, Trump commented on Manafort’s trial, telling reporters he thought the situation was “very sad.”
“He happens to be a very good person,” Trump said before boarding Marine One on Friday. “And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance speculated that Trump was warning Manafort to stay silent, as the president has yet to rule out the idea of pardoning him. Trump, unmistakably hostile to the Russia investigation, has even brought up the idea of pardoning himself.
Mueller has been the target of Trump’s anger since last May, when he was chosen to oversee a probe into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 presidential election. Trump told Reuters on Monday that he’d decided to stay out of the investigation but “could run it if I want.”
The president has yet to say whether he would sit down with Mueller, though reports indicate that White House Counsel Don McGahn has been cooperating extensively with the investigation.
Cohen faced his own charges on Tuesday, pleading guilty in federal court to five counts of tax evasion, one count of false statement to a financial institution, one count of unlawful corporate contribution and one count of excessive campaign contribution.
Cohen told the court that an unnamed candidate, presumably Trump, directed him to violate campaign laws to influence the election by hiding information.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.