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Graham: Pardoning Manafort would be ‘bridge too far’

Graham: Pardoning Manafort would be ‘bridge too far’
© Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Trump in a corner on Saudi Arabia Trump should stick to his guns and close failed South Carolina nuclear MOX project CNN's Smerconish: What do Saudis have over American presidents? MORE (S.C.) said on Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE should not pardon his former campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortManafort appears in wheelchair at court hearing Manafort to be sentenced in Virginia in February Former FBI agent sentenced to 4 years in jail for leaking to reporter MORE, warning that it would be a “bridge too far.” 

"I would not recommend a pardon. You've got to earn a pardon. I think it would be seen as a bridge too far,” Graham, who has emerged as an ally for the president, told reporters.

But pressed if he thought Congress would act if Trump took the dramatic step, Graham demurred, saying he didn’t want to discuss “what ifs.”

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Manafort was found guilty on Tuesday of eight charges of bank and tax fraud. The verdict immediately raised questions about whether Trump would try to pardon his former campaign manager, after showing sympathy for him throughout his trial.

Trump in a tweet on Wednesday called the case against Manafort a “witch hunt.”

“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 said in a separate tweet. 

The decision is a victory for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's team of prosecutors, which faced its first test in court on the Manafort case. 

Graham separately told reporters that pardoning Manafort "would be perceived by many Americans as, you know, interfering with an investigation."

Graham isn’t the only GOP senator warning Trump against pardoning Manafort. 

“I would think that would be very damaging to his health. It would be another strategic error just like the Comey error,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Trump in a corner on Saudi Arabia Corker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE (R-Tenn.) said, referring to the firing of then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFormer FBI lawyer speaks with House lawmakers on Rosenstein, 2016 Emmet Flood steps in as White House counsel following McGahn departure McGahn departs as White House counsel MORE.

Asked if Trump should pardon Manafort, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator seeking information on FBI dealings with Bruce Ohr, former DOJ lawyer Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senate Homeland chair vents Mueller probe is preventing panel from receiving oversight answers MORE (R-Wis.) scrunched up his face before adding an emphatic "no."