President Donald Trump declined in a new interview to rule out the possibility that he could pardon Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.
"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.
The President's comments come following special counsel Robert Mueller's accusation that Manafort violated his plea agreement and lied to Mueller's team after being found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes in August.
Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering on September 14, almost a year after he was first charged and following his conviction by a jury in a separate but related case on eight tax and banking crimes.
Manafort, though he has not made public statements since his plea, was thought to be the star cooperator in the special counsel's ongoing probe. In September and October, he met with Mueller's team at least nine times, amounting to hours of discussions.
As part of his plea deal, Manafort admitted to committing a host of money laundering and foreign lobbying crimes and fraud, giving the federal prosecutors leverage over him. The cases that Mueller's team brought against Manafort largely focused on his Ukrainian political consulting work, his US lobbying over the last decade and the financial management of his business proceeds. Except for one aspect of their bank fraud case, in which Manafort appeared to dangle access to the Trump campaign in exchange for a bank loan, the cases did not publicly describe Manafort's work as campaign chairman.
For more than a year now, Manafort has been at the heart of several unresolved threads of the Mueller investigation. He had been in the room for the Trump Tower meeting with Russians who touted they had incriminating information about Hillary Clinton; he had allegedly offered private briefings on the campaign to a Russian oligarch to whom he was indebted, according to The Washington Post; and he had overseen the Trump campaign in the months when Russian military intelligence allegedly hacked Democratic Party officials.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there had been no conversations about a potential presidential pardon for Manafort.