Senate

Republicans warn Trump against Manafort pardon

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Senate Republicans are warning President Trump that it would be a serious mistake to pardon his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted late Tuesday on an array of fraud charges.  

“It would be an enormous mistake and misuse of his power to pardon,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a prominent moderate, told reporters.

Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas), the second-ranking Senate GOP leader, said that pardoning Manafort “would be a mistake.”

{mosads}Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.), the third-ranking member of the GOP leadership, said he is not aware of any mitigating circumstances related to Manafort’s case that would warrant a pardon.

“Pardons should be used sparingly and you have to have some awfully compelling circumstances I would think and I certainly don’t know what those are in this case,” he said. “Pardons need to be earned.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned that pardoning Manafort “would be very damaging to the presidency and to his position as president.”

Trump praised Manafort as “brave” shortly after a jury convicted him on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account.

He suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller brought an unfair case against Manafort in order to compel damaging testimony against the president.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s remarks about Manafort stood in contrast to his comments about Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney who pleaded guilty to tax fraud, making a false statement to a financial institution and campaign finance violations on Tuesday. Trump has repeatedly criticized Cohen, but has offered supportive words for Manafort.

The contrast has raised questions about whether a pardon could be in the offering for Manafort.

Earlier this year, Trump claimed he had “absolute” pardon power — including power to pardon himself — and argued that Mueller’s investigation is unconstitutional.

In June, he pardoned conservative author Dinesh D’Souza and talked about pardons for other prominent convicts.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he “would not recommend a pardon” for Manafort.

“You’ve got to earn a pardon. I think it would be seen as a bridge too far,” he said.

Graham declined to say what Congress would do if Trump did pardon Manafort.

Democrats warn a pardon of Manafort would create a crisis in Washington.

“If the president tries to pardon these people, there will be a constitutional crisis in our country,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “That looks like a shutdown of the United States House of Representatives and Senate for all other business.”

“It looks like an attempt to subvert our country’s constitutional processes as though President Trump is a dictator,” he added. “That is not going to be something that is going to be permitted to happen in this country.”

Molly Hooper contributed.  

Tags Bob Corker Donald Trump Ed Markey John Cornyn John Thune Lindsey Graham Paul Manafort Robert Mueller Susan Collins

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