President Donald Trump declined in a new interview to rule out the possibility that he could pardon Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.
“It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” Trump told the New York Post.
The President’s comments come following special counsel Robert Mueller’s accusation that Manafort violated his plea agreement and lied to Mueller’s team after being found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes in August.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there had been no conversations about a potential presidential pardon for Manafort.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN on Tuesday that he and Trump had discussed a Manafort pardon in the spring and decided it was not a proper move at this time, he added.
“The last time we talked pardon was April or May, when I first came on,” Giuliani said. “We decided it should be off the boards — not exercised now and no one should make a decision based on any expectation.”
He also said the issue of a pardon was not among Mueller’s written questions for the President, which Trump’s legal team submitted answers to last week.
In the interview with the Post, Trump accused Mueller of urging Manafort, former Trump adviser Roger Stone and his colleague Jerome Corsi to lie.
“If you told the truth, you go to jail,” Trump told the Post about Mueller’s investigative practices.
“You know this flipping stuff is terrible,” he added. “You flip and you lie and you get — the prosecutors will tell you 99% of the time they can get people to flip. It’s rare that they can’t.”
“It’s actually very brave,” Trump said of the three men.
Trump has previously left the door open to a Manafort pardon. He dodged the question when asked about a potential pardon by Fox News in August.
“I have great respect for what he’s done in terms of what he’s gone through,” he said before listing other Republicans for whom Manafort has worked.
The eight charges against Manafort were brought as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, but were unrelated and prior to Manafort’s tenure as chairman of the Trump campaign.