Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He squirmed away from questions about whether he was planning to "help" Paul Manafort.

Yesterday, convicted felon and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was accused by the special counsel's office of lying to the FBI in violation of their plea agreement. 

Since Manafort needs prosecutors' help to avoid spending the rest of his life in jail, many observers quickly concluded that Manafort's plan was to lie during his "cooperation" in order to help Trump, who would then reward him with a pardon. This would almost certainly be criminal obstruction of justice, for which Trump himself could be prosecuted after leaving office. 

Trump gave an interview to the Washington Post today, and was asked about Manafort. He refused to say on the record whether he intended to "help" Manafort.
Q: Last night, Mr. President, the special counsel’s team charged Paul Manafort with saying, they accused him at least of saying more lies, and ended his plea deal. People around you have told me you’re upset about the way he’s been treated. Are you planning to do anything to help him? 
TRUMP: Let me go off the record because I don’t want to get in the middle of the whole thing. 
[Trump speaks off the record.] 
Q: Is there any version of that you're willing to give us on the record in answer to that question? 
TRUMP: I’d rather not. At some point, I’ll talk on the record about it. But I’d rather not. 
[Trump speaks off the record.]
This evening, the New York Times reported that Manafort was indeed secretly feeding information about the Mueller probe back to Trump's defense lawyers during Manafort's supposed "cooperation."

Why does this matter?

  • A president who wasn't planning to obstruct justice by making a bargain with a criminal co-conspirator could probably just say so.