Washington, Nov 28 (IANS) White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that she was not aware of any talk of a pardon for Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman of President Donald Trump.
“I’m not aware of any conversations for anyone’s pardon involving this process,” Sanders told a White House briefing, Xinhua news agency reported.
Manafort was accused of lying to investigators after pleading guilty to federal charges, violating a plea agreement that he signed two months ago with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia inquiry, according to a court filing made public on Monday.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had previously signalled that Manafort and others could be eligible for pardons when the Mueller-led investigation ends.
Appointed in May 2017, Mueller is looking into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and any potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, among other matters that may arise from the investigation.
Manafort was the first member of Trump’s election team facing trial on charges arising from Mueller’s investigation.
The allegation that Manafort had lied to investigators after reaching a plea deal with Mueller has fuelled speculation he might be angling for a pardon, but Manafort’s attorneys denied that he had lied to the FBI and the special counsel’s office.
Manafort, 69, was convicted in August on eight counts of financial fraud related to his work as an unregistered lobbyist for Ukraine — prior to his time with the Trump campaign.
Mueller’s team is reportedly trying to determine whether Trump associates had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked material in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, which damaged the campaign of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for presidency.
The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday that Manafort met with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, several times in secret at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, including the time when he was on Trump’s campaign.
In a statement on Tuesday, Manafort, however, denied having met with Assange. “This story is totally false and deliberately libellous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him,” he said.