Trump pardon of Manafort would be ‘terrible mistake’: Senator Rubio

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump would make a “terrible mistake” if he pardoned his former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort after charges brought as a result of the federal probe into Russian election interference, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said on Sunday.

“I just think it would be the wrong thing to do and I think it would be a huge political mistake as well,” Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Manafort faces sentencing on his convictions in August of tax and bank fraud charges. In a court filing on Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort lied to investigators about his interactions with a Russian tied to Russian intelligence services.

That filing detailed why Mueller’s office last week retracted a plea agreement with Manafort. He pleaded guilty in September to two conspiracy charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Trump has not ruled out a pardon for Manafort and has praised him as a good man. In contrast, he has said his former longtime “fixer” Michael Cohen, who has cooperated with federal prosecutors, should go to jail.

“I believe it’d be a terrible mistake. Pardons should be used judiciously. They’re used for cases with extraordinary circumstances,” Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Rubio told ABC that Trump granting a pardon to Manafort could have unintended consequences.

“I think, in fact, that if something like that were to happen, it could trigger a debate about whether the pardon powers should be amended given these circumstances,” the Florida senator said.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to sway the election. Russia denies interfering in the 2016 election and Trump has denied any collusion occurred.

Manafort’s alleged false statements included comments about his business dealings and contacts with a former associate in Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported. Those statements did not appear to be central to Mueller’s Russia probe, but it is unclear if prosecutors plan to accuse Manafort of additional lies.