President Donald Trump on Friday responded to Paul Manafort’s prison sentence, saying he “felt very badly” for his former campaign chairman.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” he said, adding that it “is a very, very tough time for him.” He also remarked that Manafort’s conviction “has nothing to do with collusion.”
“I don’t collude with Russia,” he said.
Manafort was on Thursday sentenced in Virginia to 47 months in federal prison, or less than four years, for a case that grew out of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He was convicted in August of filing false income taxes, failing to report foreign bank accounts and committing bank fraud.
Manafort had been in custody since his bail was revoked in June 2018. The longtime Republican operative will get credit for nine months of time served, making his sentence closer to three years.
Trump has talked about possibly pardoning Manafort before he serves his time. The president told the New York Post in November that he had never outright discussed pardoning the former campaign chairman, but said he wouldn’t “take it off the table.”
Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, said in August that he had discussed pardoning Manafort over the summer.
“We both agreed that it made sense not to pardon anybody during the pendency of the investigation,” Giuliani told HuffPost at the time.
The case Manafort was sentenced for Thursday centered around his overseas work for oligarchs backing pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine and his attempts at preventing that money from reaching the U.S. government.
Manafort separately pleaded guilty in D.C. federal court in September to a range of criminal conduct as part of a plea deal with Mueller’s team. But Mueller’s team said that Manafort lied to investigators after reaching the deal. The special counsel was “no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement,” a federal judge ruled last month. Manafort faces sentencing in that case next week.