WASHINGTON – The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday President Trump and his legal team are “terrified” of what dirt former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort could dish to federal prosecutors.
“They may think they know what Manafort has to say because he was part of that joint defense agreement, but they have to know that he may not have told them the full truth,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They’re terrified of what he has to say.”
Schiff said he’s surprised that Trump’s former campaign manager didn’t hold out for a pardon from the president before agreeing to a plea deal with Robert Mueller.
“I’m surprised that we are where we are, that Manafort is cooperating,” Schiff said.
Manafort on Friday was the latest Trump associate to cave to a plea deal that requires him to cooperate in the Russian probe. Others who have pleaded guilty are former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has downplayed the guilty plea as “irrelevant” because there’s no evidence Trump colluded with Russians to meddle in the 2016 election and the plea deal has to do with Manafort’s life prior to the Trump campaign.
But Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz said Giuliani is putting a positive spin on “bad” situation for President Trump.
“This was a very bad day for the Trump Administration. It’s bad because he doesn’t know what Manafort is saying,” Dershowitz told “Meet the Press.”
Trump and Manafort “acted too late,” the lawyer added.
“Manafort, if he was going to make a deal, should’ve made it before he was convicted. He would’ve gotten a better deal,” Dershowitz said. “And President Trump, if he was going pardon, he should’ve pardoned before Manafort agreed to cooperate.”
It’s unclear what Manafort will tell Mueller, but he led the Trump campaign during critical moments of interest to investigators. Manafort attended the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner designed to get “dirt” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Manafort, who has deep foreign ties, was also in the charge when the Republican Party changed its platform to be more friendly to Russia.