White House

Trump says he’s not thinking of pardoning Paul Manafort — but won’t rule it out

New state charges, however, would leave POTUS powerless to free his former campaign chairman

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse after a court hearing on the terms of his bail and house arrest on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday reiterated his sympathy for Paul Manafort, but would not commit to a pardon after his former campaign chairman manager was sentenced to additional prison time that brings his total behind bars to at least 7 1/2 years.

But the longtime Republican political operative, just minutes after receiving a 3 1/2-year federal sentence, on top of a previous 4-year sentence, was indicted on 16 counts by New York state prosecutors. If convicted and sentenced on any of the state counts, the president would lack any powers to pardon him from those.

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“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” a somber-sounding Trump said. “It’s a very sad situation.”

But he claimed that “I have not even given a thought” to such a move on the federal charges, he said. “It’s not something, right now, in my mind.”

The middle part of that last sentence leaves the door opened to a pardon.

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“This defendant is not public enemy number one, but he is not a victim either,” U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Amy Berman Jackson said in court on Wednesday, according to reports. “The question of whether there was any collusion with Russia ... was not presented in this case, period, therefore it was not resolved by this case.

“Saying, 'I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an effective plea for leniency,” the judge said.

Manafort told the judge Wednesday he feels remorse for his actions.

“It’s a very sad situation,” Trump said after Manafort’s Wednesday sentencing on foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering charges.

“On a human basis, it’s a very sad thing,” he added, in a rare empathetic moment.

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