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Giuliani won't rule out Trump pardon for Manafort: 'He's not disqualified'

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani attends an event at the White House on May 30, 2018, in Washington.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS/TNS

By CHRIS SOMMERFELDT | New York Daily News | Published: September 15, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — He's standing by his man.

President Donald Trump has not completely ruled out the possibility of pardoning his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort – even though he is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, Rudy Giuliani said Friday.

"He's not disqualified from it," Giuliani, Trump's top lawyer in the Russia investigation, told the New York Daily News hours after Manafort entered the cooperation agreement with Mueller. "I don't have any reason to believe it's happening now, but I also don't have any reason to preclude it in the future."

Giuliani said he ultimately wouldn't play a role in pardoning Manafort, noting such an undertaking would be handled by the White House counsel and the president himself.

But Giuliani stressed Manafort's cooperation with Mueller doesn't necessarily hurt his pardon chances.

"I don't think the president is concerned about anyone flipping as long as they tell the truth, and certainly Paul would do that," Giuliani said. "The president never did anything wrong with him."

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.

Manafort, 69, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. As part of his plea, the former Trump campaign chief will "fully and truthfully" cooperate in Mueller's investigation and any other inquiries requested by the government.

Trump was livid when his former personal attorney Michael Cohen accepted a similar cooperation plea deal in the Southern District of New York last month and consequently implicated the president in committing campaign finance violations.

He blasted Cohen for supposedly making up stories and getting a "deal" and praised Manafort for refusing to "break."

But, even though Manafort has finally flipped, Giuliani said there's no bad blood between Trump and his ex-campaign chairman.

"The president doesn't have any criticism of Mr. Manafort," Giuliani said.

Contrary to Cohen, Giuliani claimed Manafort has been "truthful."

"What the president probably didn't make as clear as a lawyer would is that he is not upset with people who cooperate. He's upset with people who lie," Giuliani said.

Giuliani confirmed Trump's legal team is still in a joint defense agreement with Manafort, allowing them to communicate and exchange privileged information. The former New York mayor declined to say whether Trump's lawyers were consulted before Manafort entered his guilty plea.

Manafort was convicted last month in Virginia on tax and bank fraud charges. Both convictions stem from shadowy lobbying work he did in Ukraine on behalf of pro-Kremlin political forces.

The longtime Republican operative served as Trump's campaign chief at a pivotal time and was present for several incidents under scrutiny by Mueller, including a controversial meeting at Trump Tower attended by a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Giuliani's latest remarks baffled legal experts who pointed out Manafort's cooperation agreement would remain even if the president pardons him.

"The president can still issue a pardon, but it would be very odd at this point," Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois, told the Daily News.

Considering the well of information Manafort will likely be able to give Mueller's investigators, Mariotti said, "If I was in the Trump team, today would be a very bad day."

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