Will Trump Pardon Manafort? Watergate Lawyers Say Ex-Campaign Manager Who Lied to Mueller Probably Thinks So

Two former Watergate prosecutors said it looks as if "reckless and arrogant" Paul Manafort believes President Donald Trump might pardon him.

In a court filing, special counsel Robert Mueller accused Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, of violating a plea deal Manafort made with the special counsel's office in the Russia investigation by lying to the FBI "on a variety of subject matters."

Manafort was convicted in August on eight counts of financial fraud relating to his political consultancy businesses and awaits sentencing.

He faced a second trial in September on several charges of conspiracy against the U.S. by acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, specifically the Ukrainian-Kremlin allied regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy and entered into a plea deal with the Mueller investigation in which he agreed to respond "fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly" to "any and all matters" regarding the special counsel's investigation. In so doing, the remaining charges against Manafort were dropped and he avoided a second trial.

In its court filing, the special counsel's office said Manafort's "crimes and lies" breached the plea agreement, and that there was "no reason to delay his sentencing."

The filing also noted that Manafort "believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government's characterization or that he has breached the agreement."

Manafort's alleged lying to to federal investigators has raised questions about why he would take such a risk when the consequences—the 69-year-old would likely spend the rest of his life behind bars and have much of his wealth stripped away—were so dire.

"I do think that there is something going on about a pardon," Jill Wine-Banks, who was an assistant special counsel in the Nixon-era Watergate investigation, told MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes.

"That maybe there was some contact by the president, or some representatives of the president, that he would get pardoned."

Wine-Banks said it was "plausible and sensible" that Manafort pleaded guilty "to avoid the cost of the trial, knowing that he would get pardoned in the end, and that he might be able to get away with lies because he is reckless and arrogant.

"And that if he could get away with them, he might actually be able to help Donald Trump by getting away with it and saying things that might be exculpatory of the president instead of incriminating of the president," she said.

Nick Akerman, who was also an assistant special counsel during Watergate, appeared alongside Wine-Banks on MSNBC, and agreed with Wine-Banks's pardon theory.

Akerman said he had regular experience as a prosecutor of witnesses promising to tell the whole truth under a plea deal and then either withholding information or lying.

"I used to have witnesses do that to me all the time. And the same thing would happen... They weren't telling you everything, and you knew they weren't telling you everything," Ackerman said.

"And you know that Mueller does know everything... Look what he knows about the Russians. He was able to detail in two indictments where people were sitting, what was on their desks, what they were doing at a particular time of the day... You know he knows the same thing on Manafort.

"So what Manafort is doing...he thinks he can somehow beat this, and he's smarter than everybody else, but he's going away to jail for life. That's it."

Akerman, however, said it might be possible for Manafort to still eventually be a witness for the government, despite the damage to his credibility, if he has ironclad, documentary evidence to share with the Mueller investigation.

"Let me say this: It is not unusual for a witness in that position to suddenly get hammered at sentencing and then come around again and start cooperating," Akerman said.

"And that's why you might see some language in these court filings where they don't come down quite as bad because they know at some point he's going to be a government witness."

The White House did not respond immediately to Newsweek's request for comment.

Will Trump Pardon Manafort? Watergate Lawyers Say Ex-Campaign Manager Who Lied to Mueller Probably Thinks So | U.S.
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