Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, reached a plea deal on Friday that includes cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Though Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager in the summer of 2016, including during the Republican National Convention when Trump officially secured his party’s presidential nomination, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed Friday’s developments “had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated.”
Unfortunately for the White House, there is a long history of Trump campaign officials and surrogates praising Manafort publicly and reportedly advocating for him behind the scenes.
After Manafort’s conviction on tax and bank fraud charges last month, the president praised the “brave man” for refusing “to get a ‘deal.'”
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “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.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
When Manafort resigned as campaign chairman in August 2016, Trump said he was “very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process.”
Trump also said “Paul Manafort has done an amazing job” during an event after the Republican National Convention in July 2016.
Following Manafort’s departure as his father’s campaign chairman, Eric Trump said “Paul is a great guy” and “Paul was amazing” in an August 2016 appearance on Fox News.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner
The New York Times reported in 2017 that Trump’s oldest daughter and her husband were pivotal in the decision to hire Manafort as campaign manager.
Mr. Barrack passed Mr. Manafort’s pitch to Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who were Mr. Trump’s closest advisers, as they are now.
Ms. Trump printed it out for her father — who hates reading documents online — along with Mr. Barrack’s recommendation that Mr. Manafort be hired to manage the Trump operation at the Republican convention in Cleveland. Mr. Manafort was brought onto the campaign by the end of March.
According to the Mercury News, “Ivanka and Jared seemed to think that Manafort, a long-time political consultant and lobbyist, would bring professionalism” to Trump’s campaign.
The former Republican House Speaker and staunch Trump supporter praised Manafort for his role in helping Trump secure the Republican nomination during an interview on Fox News in August 2016. “Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help get this campaign to where it is right now,” Gingrich said at the time.
Flashback. August 19, 2016. Newt Gingrich: "Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help get this campaign to where it is right now." pic.twitter.com/OlTOpC1B1l
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 14, 2018
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski claimed Manafort had “been in operational control of the campaign since April 7” when he was removed from the role in June 2016. However, Lewandowski had high praise for his replacement, noting, “Paul helped us grow the campaign and we need to continue to grow to be successful. So everything that Paul did for the campaign is one less thing I had to do.”
The Fox News host and reliable Trump defender admitted he “stayed in touch” with Manafort after his dismissal as campaign chairman during an interview on the night of Trump’s inauguration. “You never lost that confidence, and I remember talking to you about a week before the election. You were 100 percent confident,” Hannity told Manafort about Trump’s 2016 win.