Trump says he believes convicted ex-campaign chief Paul Manafort 'will tell the truth' to Mueller

Dan Mangan

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said "I believe that" his former campaign chief Paul Manafort "will tell the truth" as he cooperates with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump's comment on the south lawn of the White House came five days after Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges brought by Mueller in federal court in Washington, D.C. As part of that plea, Manafort agree to assist the prosecutor in an ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

Mueller is also investigating whether Trump has obstructed justice by trying to hamper that broader inquiry.

Last Friday, as Manafort pleaded guilty, Trump's lawyer for the Mueller probe, Rudy Giulian i, issued a statement that said: "Once again an investigation concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign."

"The reason: the President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth," Giuliani said.

But within minutes, a "corrected" statement was issued that said the same thing, except for the line "and Paul Manafort will tell the truth."

Trump on Wednesday put that line back in to the White House's latest official view of Manafort's veracity, and its impact on the political and legal fate of the president.

"Paul Manafort was with me for a short period of time," said Trump of the veteran Republican operative, who ran Trump's presidential campaign fewer than four months.

"He did a good job and I'm very happy with the job he did," Trump told reporters.

"And I will tell you this, I believe that he will tell the truth," the president said. "If he tells the truth, no problem."

"As long as he tells the truth, it's 100 percent," said Trump, who routinely calls Mueller's investigation a witch hunt, and who has denied any wrongdoing by either his campaign or himself.

Manafort's lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manafort's guilty plea came on the eve of the scheduled start of jury selection in his second criminal trial on charges that related to his consulting work for a pro-Russia political patrty in Ukraine, as well as for trying to tamper with witnesses against him after he was released on bond. His work in Ukraine predated his role on the Trump campaign.

Manafor, who is being held in jail without bond as he cooperates with Mueller, is the latest person in Trump's orbit to have pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

Last month, the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen , pleaded guilty to tax crimes and to breaking campaign finance law in connection with a $130,000 hush-money payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the election.

Cohen told a U.S. District Court judge in New York City that Trump had directed him to makle that payment to Daniels for the purpose of affecting the outcome of the election.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex with Trump once in 2008, and was on the verge of of going public with that claim before Cohen paid her to keep quiet. Trump, who has denied having sex with Daniels, reimbursed Cohen for the payment.

Cohen's guilty plea was to charges brought by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, not from Mueller's team of federal prosecutors. And the plea did not include an agreement to cooperate with either the New York prosecutors or with Mueller.

But Vanity Fair reported last Friday, on the same day that Manafort's deal with Mueller was revealed, that Cohen has recently been talking with Mueller's team.

Manafort's former business associate Rick Gates pleaded guilty earlier this year after being charged with Manafort in the Ukraine-related cases. Gates, who was a former Trump campaign aide, admitted making false statements to investigators, and cooperated with Mueller on the heels of that plea.

Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn , is awaiting sentencing after pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of his conversations after the presidential election, but before Trump's inauguration, with Russia's ambassador to the United States. Flynn has cooperated with Mueller's investigation.

Last week, George Papadopoulos, who had served as a foreign policy advisor to Trump's campaign, was sentenced to 14 days in jail after having pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a professor in London, who had told him in April 2016 that Russians had negative information about Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.