U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is not worried about his 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, agreeing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller in his wide-ranging investigation of Trump campaign links with Russia.
"I believe he will tell the truth," Trump told reporters at the White House as he headed to North Carolina to view the vast flood damage from Hurricane Florence. "And if he tells the truth, no problem."
Manafort, who headed the Trump campaign in mid-2016 when the then-real estate mogul was trying to lock down the Republican presidential nomination, cut a plea deal with Mueller last week, agreeing to tell him what he knows about Trump campaign operations in exchange for Mueller dropping several criminal charges against him.
Manafort, a 69-year-old longtime Washington lobbyist, pleaded guilty in Washington to two charges linked to his lucrative lobbying efforts for former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych that predated Manafort's involvement with the Trump campaign.
In August, a jury in nearby Virginia convicted Manafort of eight other tax and bank fraud charges, finding him guilty of hiding millions of dollars in income from U.S. authorities earned while working for Yanukovych and then lying about his income and assets on bank loans when the money from the Ukrainian leader dried up in 2014 when he was toppled in a popular uprising.
Manafort remains jailed, awaiting sentencing that could keep him imprisoned for a decade.
It is not known what information Manafort might be telling Mueller and his legal team.
But Manafort played a role in one key event Mueller is investigating, attending a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York, the candidate's campaign headquarters. Trump's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., set up the meeting with a lawyer he was told was representing the Russian government and would provide incriminating information about Trump's Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
As it turned out, the younger Trump said no such information was forthcoming. When news of the meeting first surfaced after Trump became president, he dictated a statement misleading The New York Times about the purpose of the meeting, but since then has said he had no knowledge about the meeting before it took place.