Would a Trump Pardon Stop Manafort From Cooperating with Mueller?

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a pardon for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted on multiple counts of fraud, in a move that could hinder special counsel Robert Mueller's efforts to secure cooperation.

The jury convicted Manafort on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of hiding a foreign bank account. But the judge declared a mistrial on an additional 10 counts on which the jury could not reach a verdict (there was one lone holdout). Manafort, 69, faces up to 80 years in prison as he awaits sentencing.

Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt spoke with President Donald Trump after the Manafort conviction in an interview that will air on Thursday morning.

Talking with Sean Hannity about the interview, Earhardt said Trump "mentioned pardoning Manafort…and said he would consider that. I think he feels bad for Manafort."

"It's a very sad thing that happened," Trump told reporters at his rally in West Virginia after the Manafort verdicts. The president also tweeted that he feels "very badly" for Manafort and that he had "such respect for a brave man."

"'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,'" Trump wrote, referring to his former fixer Cohen's plea deal that implicated the president in campaign-finance violations.

Manafort's attorney, Kevin Downing, told reporters that, although his client was disappointed in the outcome, he thanked the judge and jury for a fair trial and that he is "evaluating all of his options at this point."

Manafort faces a second trial in September on charges that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent by covertly lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government in Washington, laundered money, lied to the FBI and tampered with witnesses.

All the charges in the two trials emerged as a result of Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possibility that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government.

As Manafort faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison, it's conceivable he could cut a deal with Mueller in exchange for leniency—and that's likelyTrump's greatest fear.

"I see Mueller continuing to squeeze [Manafort] if he sees value," Ron Hosko, a former assistant director to the FBI, told Fox News.

But an audacious pardon of Manafort by the president would presumably undercut Mueller's position by removing a large incentive for Manafort to cooperate with the special counsel.

Instead, Mueller would have to rely on the threat of the second trial, for which the special counsel said it had significantly more evidence than for the first, another reason Manafort might want to do a deal.

Trump has repeatedly called Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt," claiming it is politically motivated. But Mueller and his team are racking up indictments, guilty pleas and now convictions as their probe wears on.

Lanny Davis, the lawyer of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, said his client was willing to talk to Mueller. Trump's former national security adviser General Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat.

Rick Gates, an adviser to the Trump campaign and Manafort's former business partner, pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to the FBI.

And George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump's campaign, also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI when it was handling the Russia investigation over his dealings with people connected to the Russian government.

Further indictments, plea deals and trials are expected as the special counsel's investigation continues.

Paul Manafort Donald Trump Mueller
Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court on June 15 in Washington, D.C. Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, was convicted on eight of 18 counts, including bank fraud and tax fraud, on August 21. President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a pardon for Manafort. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Would a Trump Pardon Stop Manafort From Cooperating with Mueller? | U.S.