After Paul Manafort’s conviction, President Trump won’t dismiss pardoning former campaign head

President Donald Trump speaks during an event to salute U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ORG XMIT: OTKAB

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump still won’t dismiss the idea of pardoning Paul Manafort after the former campaign chief was convicted by a jury earlier this week.

During a wide-ranging interview that aired Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends,” Trump talked about whether he’d consider a pardon for Manafort, his relationship with former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, possible impeachment and his deep frustrations with the Justice Department.

Trump has flirted with the idea of pardoning Manafort for a while. During the weeks-long trial against Manafort, he was asked about the notion and wouldn’t cast it aside.

“I have great respect for what he’s done in terms of what he’s going through,” the president said.

Manafort’s case was the first fought in court by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, who are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the president. He was found guilty of eight counts by a 12-member jury.

Trump, during the interview, tried to dismiss some of the eight charges Manafort was convicted in, saying he was guilty of things everyone in Washington “probably does.”.

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“I would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does,” the president said.

Cohen ‘flipping’

The president also attempted to diminish his relationship with Cohen, who pleaded guilty earlier this week to charges that implicated Trump in a hush scheme to pay off two women who alleged affairs with him during the 2016 election.

Trump said his longtime fixer was just “one of many” lawyers he had who helped him handle both big and small deals over about a decade. He characterized Cohen working for him only “part-time.”.

“I always found him to be a nice guy,” Trump said. But that has changed, he said, because investigators found crimes tied to Cohen’s taxi businesses, leading to his former lawyer “flipping.”.

Cohen had a choice, Trump said. He could receive a harsh sentence or “make up stories” and “become a national hero.”.

The president said the two campaign violations aren’t even crimes, information he learned from watching TV news, he said. He added he did nothing wrong and the money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal were not illegal because they “came from me” and not his campaign.

More:President Trump: Cohen payments to women weren’t illegal because they ‘came from me’.

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More:Growing list of Trump associates and others accused or convicted of crimes.

“I know all about flipping,” the president said. “Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is.”.

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He added “it’s not fair” and “it almost ought to be outlawed” because it encourages people to “make up stories.”.

What Trump left out of his interview was that Cohen didn’t admit to the charges because he just wanted a lower sentence. Federal prosecutors laid out their case in court documents, outlining the timeline and others who were involved in the alleged scheme to violate campaign finance laws to affect the outcome of the election.

Federal prosecutors had been building a case for months and raided Cohen’s hotel, home and office in April, finding a trove of information, including secretive recordinngs Cohen made of his conversations.

Attacking Justice

During the “Fox & Friends” interview, Trump also pointed to Democrats and Hillary Clinton and said he was frustrated by the lack of action by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on investigating his opponents. When asked whether he would fire Sessions or his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, after the midterms, Trump didn’t dismiss the idea.

“If you look at Hillary Clinton’s person, you take a look at the people that work for Hillary Clinton, and look at the crimes that Clinton did with the emails and she deletes 33,000 emails after she gets a subpoena from Congress, and this Justice Department does nothing about it and all of the other crimes that they’ve done,” he said.

The president went into detail about his frustrations with Sessions and his decision to recuse himself from heading the Mueller investigation, which in turn put Rosenstein in charge. Since Sessions recused himself in early 2017, the attorney general has often been criticized by Trump.

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“[Sessions] took the job then he said ‘I’m going to recuse myself,'” Trump said. “I said ‘What kind of a man is this?'”.

He said the only reason Sessions was given a job was because of his loyalty to the campaign. Trump dismissed Sessions’ character as someone who “hasn’t taken charge” of DOJ and added he wouldn’t have hired him if he knew what he does now.

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