It would be a “huge mistake” for Donald Trump to pardon former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Republican Senator Marco Rubio says.
Though Rubio has frequently supported his onetime Republican primary opponent, he split sharply with the president after Trump had floated the idea of issuing a pardon for Manafort. Trump’s former campaign manager was convicted on a series of federal charges already and has faced new accusations that he lied to prosecutors in the midst of their plea deal. Manafort faces the possibility of spending decades in prison.
As Rubio said in an appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he would not back Trump if he pardoned Manafort.
“I think it would be a terrible mistake if he did that. I do. I believe it’d be a terrible mistake,” Rubio said. “You know, pardons should be used judiciously. They’re used for cases with extraordinary circumstances. And I just haven’t heard that the White House was thinking about doing it. I know he hasn’t ruled it out but I haven’t heard anyone say, we’re thinking about doing it.”
Rubio went on to say that a pardon of Manafort would “not pass the smell test” and undermines the purpose of having presidential pardons. A number of other Democrats and some Republicans have issued similar warnings, with some saying that a pardon of Manafort could trigger impeachment proceedings.
Donald Trump this week had suggested that he could use his presidential power to pardon his former campaign manager.
“It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” Trump told the New York Post.
As the Russia probe works toward its conclusion and continues to ensnare members of Trump’s inner circle — former lawyer Michael Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about Trump’s involvement in a real estate project in Russia — the president has become increasingly vocal against it. He claimed that the latest court filings from Robert Mueller’s team show that there is “no collusion,” despite Trump being indicated as a co-conspirator in Cohen’s campaign finance violations.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that it was “time for the Witch Hunt to END,” which marks another instance where he has called for the end of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Though Donald Trump has publicly floated the idea of pardoning Paul Manafort, the White House said there have been no official discussions yet on issuing the pardon.