Donald Trump‘s former campaign manager has said he was pressured to lie about the then-president by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team.
Paul Manafort, 72, spoke on Wednesday night to Fox News’ Sean Hannity for the first time since being pardoned by Trump more than a year ago.
Manafort was charged in 2017 with conspiracy against the United States, making false statements, money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine.
Manafort – a globetrotting lobbyist famed for representing dubious characters such as Congolese President Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, and Nigerian coup leader Sani Abacha – was the figurehead for accusations that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped elect Trump.
Manafort was accused of working with Russia to help Trump win the election – something which was never proved, and he has always denied.
In August 2018, he was found guilty of filing false income tax returns, failing to report his foreign accounts, and bank fraud, and he spent a little of a year in prison before being released to house arrest in May 2020, and then pardoned by Trump in December 2020.
Manafort, a veteran Republican strategist and lobbyist who worked on Republican presidential campaigns as far back as Gerald Ford’s in 1976, appeared on Fox News Channel on Wednesday night to promote his new book ‘Political Prisoner’ and discuss the pressure he felt to condemn Trump.
‘From day one I felt they were targeting me and a few others to get at the then-president,’ he told Hannity, his friend and confidant.
‘There were moments they were putting pressure on me to talk about facts that were not true.
‘The quid-pro-quo that was understood was that I was to be treated in a lenient way.’
Paul Manafort, 72, appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Wednesday night – his first interview since being pardoned by Donald Trump in December 2020
Manafort appeared on Hannity’s show to promote his book, Political Prisoner
Manafort said that he resisted the pressure, adding: ‘I wasn’t going to lie. There was no way they could force me to give up the president.’
‘I felt that as long as I told the truth I had nothing to fear, but I was wrong.’
In September 2018, Manafort conceded to committing several federal crimes and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department, including in special counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses.
Yet on Wednesday night, he insisted he was pressured to turn on Trump – a longtime friend in whose Manhattan skyscraper, Trump Tower, he lived from 2006 until he was forced to sell in 2018.
Manafort told Hannity: ‘I felt like I was in the middle of a tsunami and there was no way my voice was going to be heard amid all of this onslaught of this misinformation.’
Manafort served as campaign chair for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign
Manafort was convicted of eight counts of tax and conspiracy charges, and pleaded guilty to two others
He said the saga of the ‘very complicated last five years’ was beyond his ‘wildest dreams’.
Manafort’s memoir comes after he was pardoned by former President Donald Trump
And he said the ‘ridiculous’ accusations of working with Russia to get Trump elected, which he described as a ‘false narrative,’ was a way to try and bring down Trump.
‘There was no doubt in my mind from day one that I was a means to an end,’ he told Hannity.
‘After they didn’t succeed with me, they did the same with Roger Stone.
‘They put the gag order on Roger, they indicted him too.’
Stone and Manafort are old friends, having founded Black, Manafort & Stone – one of the first political consulting groups to work for Ronald Reagan’s presidential candidacy in 1980.
Manafort continued: ‘Who they cared about was Donald Trump.
‘And without us they didn’t think they could get to him.’
He said he recalled ‘laughing with my lawyer’ at the stories that he was planning to ‘turn’ on Trump, saying that he intended all along to ‘tell the truth’.
‘They wanted me to say something that wasn’t true and I wasn’t going to do that,’ he said.
‘Once you start going down the slippery slope, who knows where you’re going to end up.
‘On the Russian collusion – I knew it was phony.’
He added: ‘It was the weaponization of the national security system.
‘In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined this.’
Manafort is seen in a March 2019 court sketch from his sentencing hearing
Manafort is seen in July 2016 at the RNC in Cleveland, Ohio
Through the course of his two trials, it was revealed how Manafort was able to live a lavish lifestyle.
A federal judge ordered him to pay $24.8 million in restitution.
He was ultimately allowed to keep his infamous $15,000 ostrich jacket, though he had to turn over multiple properties in New York – including his Trump Tower apartment.
The book has an August release date, with a hardcover price set at $32.50, and Manafort said on Wednesday night that he was in the process of writing.
Manafort’s lawyers complained that he was being held in solitary confinement at Northern Neck regional jail in a legal filing in 2018.
Mueller’s prosecutors countered in a filing at the time that he ‘is not confined to a cell,’ had ‘his own bathroom and shower facility,’ along with ‘his own personal telephone’ with the ability to use the phone 12 hours a day to help prepare for trial.
His publisher’s statement also defends his work for Ukrainian former president, Victor Yanukovych – a close ally of Vladimir Putin.
‘Not only is it untrue that Victor Yanukovych or any of Paul’s clients were ‘pro-Putin,’ it is the opposite of the truth,’ they state.
‘Paul’s work in Ukraine and throughout his career was 100 percent aligned with US interests in the countries he worked in, sometimes even acting as a back channel for the White House itself.’
The Skyhorse Publishing imprint also published former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s tell-all, Disloyal, along with Robert F. Kennedy’s book, The Real Anthony Fauci.
Trump’s pardon of Manafort came in December 2020, amid other pardons for former political operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of son-in-law Jared Kushner.
‘Neither was Paul guilty of laundering money, evading taxes, or deliberately deceiving the US government by failing to register as a foreign agent—which he wasn’t,’ writes his publisher.
‘These were all politically motivated charges manufactured by the Special Counsel’s team for one reason and one reason only: to get Paul to testify against Donald Trump about a conspiracy that never existed.’