In a stunning Friday interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, former US Attorney Joyce Vance laid out the real rationale behind President Donald Trump’s not-even-remotely-veiled statement about Paul Manafort, whose ongoing trial for a litany of charges regarding corruption, theft, and any manner of political and economic underhandedness is currently in the deliberation stage.
It is absolutely unprecedented for a President to weigh in on an ongoing trial — except with this specific President. Trump certainly well remembers the fact that he was able to affect the sentencing of Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who deserted his unit in Afghanistan and was later captured, then traded in a prisoner exchange for Taliban members who were being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Although the ethics of speaking favorably or disfavorably about someone on trial during a government case are clear — Trump is absolutely in violation of all standard protocol, as the President is the de facto chief prosecutor in any case involving the federal government — what is also clear is that Trump does not care, has no intention of changing, and thinks that ethics are for other people.
His comments on the White House lawn were understood by nearly everyone in attendance, along with surely those not in attendance such as the prosecution in the Manafort case, to be a message to his former campaign manager:
I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. He happens to be a very good person. When you look at what is going on, I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time, but you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
The President’s opinion contrasts slightly with that of the prosecution, who have filed 18 charges against the pro-Russia lobbyist and former head of Trump’s election team.
For her part, former US Attorney Vance told her host that the message from Trump was clear:
If you’re Paul Manafort and you hear about that — and we all know Paul Manafort’s heard about that — it’s difficult to read that as anything other than a message to Manafort: ‘Hold on, don’t cut a deal with the government while the jury is out.’”
Many defendants are known, in the end, when it seems exceedingly likely they will lose their case, to try and strike a bargain with prosecutors. Certainly, however, that time must have now passed for Manafort in the eyes of Robert Mueller. Manafort has been unrepentant and even publicly denigrated his former partner Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges, for not defending their collective innocence.
Watch the interview here:
Featured image via screen capture