WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday said he feels “very badly” for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison.
Speaking to reporters as he left the White House to visit tornado-ravaged sites in Alabama, Trump also minimized Friday’s weak jobs report and called the Democrats’ resolution against all hate after alleged anti-Semitic comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) “a disgrace.”
And he said that his former longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen lied when he told a House hearing a week ago that he had never asked Trump for a pardon.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it’s been a very, very tough time for him,” Trump said a day after Manafort’s sentencing to 47 months for his conviction for cheating on his taxes and committing bank fraud as a lobbyist in Ukraine prior to joining the Trump campaign.
Asked if he would pardon Manafort, Trump said, “I haven’t discussed it.”
Trump also stated that U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III said during the sentencing of Manafort that “there was no collusion with Russia” and the Trump campaign.
But what Ellis observed was that the case against Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election.”
Or as Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said on CNN: “This case doesn’t prove there was no collusion because that wasn’t the subject of the trial.”
On the jobs report that showed only 20,000 jobs had been added in February, a steep drop from the previous month, Trump focused instead on wages and the stock market.
“We're seeing wages rise for them to have that anytime for a long, long time,” he said. “If you look at the stock market over the last few months, it's been great.”
Trump also accused Democrats of being an “anti-Israel party” and an “anti-Jewish party” after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders expanded a resolution condemning anti-Semitism to also include Islamophobia, racism and other bigotry.
“I thought yesterday’s vote by the House was disgraceful,” Trump said about the resolution that passed overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans 407 to 23. All lawmakers voting no were Republicans because they said the bill was a sham.
Democrats struggled over how to respond to Omar’s recent comments that suggested that House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances, a long-used anti-Semitic trope, and whether to single out Omar in its resolution. The final version didn’t name her.
Some Democrats on Friday rejected Trump’s attempt to label them as opposed to Israel and Jews. “That’s obviously false,” said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), saying the resolution meant to condemn all comments based on hate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) fired back at Trump.
"For the president, who when neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville in front of a synagogue and said 'burn it down' and he said 'both sides' are to blame, this is a divisive new low," Schumer posted on Facebook.
"Mr. President, you have redefined chutzpah," Schumer wrote.
Asked about Cohen’s assertion that he hadn’t asked for a pardon, Trump said that it was a “stone cold lie.”
A judge in December sentenced Cohen to 3 years for his guilty pleas for financial crimes and for lying to Congress.
“He knew all about the pardon. His lawyer said that they went to my lawyers and asked for a pardon,” Trump said. “And I could go a step above that, but I won't go into it now.”
After leaving the White House, Trump tweeted about Cohen that “he directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again!”