WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is not worried about Paul Manafort implicating him in the Russia election investigation – though he also declined to say whether he is considering a pardon for his former campaign chairman.
"I believe that he will tell the truth, and, if he tells the truth, no problem," Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to North and South Carolina to review storm damage.
Asked about a possible pardon for Manafort, Trump said: “I don't want to talk about it now.”
On Friday, Manafort pleaded guilty to two felony conspiracy charges and reached an agreement to provide "complete cooperation" with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
These were Trump's first public comments on Manafort since the cooperation agreement was announced.
Mueller's team is investigating possible links between Trump's campaign team and Russians who sought to interfere in the 2016 election.
Charges against Manafort, 69, a longtime lobbyist and Republican political operative, stemmed from his work on behalf of a pro-Russian faction in Ukraine.
Trump has consistently denied any sort of collusion with the Russians, as well as claims that he has tried to obstruct justice in the investigation with moves like the 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has said Trump's team should be "terrified" by Manafort's cooperation on collusion with the Russians.
"Manafort is a key person to help us unwind whether this is the most unlikely string of improbable coincidences or whether this is an active conspiracy," the California Democrat told NBC's Meet The Press last weekend.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani called that claim nonsense, saying Manafort's cooperation involves other issues and that he has nothing on Trump, members of his family, or the campaign.
Last month, a federal jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty of eight felonies. Manafort was looking at a second trial on more charges when he decided to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller.
With that second trial pending, Trump had all but urged his former campaign aide to resist cooperation with prosecutors. At one point, the president described Manafort as a "brave man" who "refused to break."
Trump has also criticized the prosecution of Manafort, calling it unfair.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday at the White House, Trump said Manafort did the same kind of work for his campaign as he did for previous Republican candidates.
"Paul Manafort was with me for a short period of time," Trump said. "He did a good job. I was, you know, very happy with the job he did."