As the jury in former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's tax and bank fraud trial convenes for the second day, President Donald Trump appeared to defend the embattled consultant.
The president spoke to reporters about the trial on Friday.
"It's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort," says President Trump as jury deliberates https://t.co/vCLomTLYmX https://t.co/9etWLVgrjJ— TIME (@TIME) 1534530657.0
Trump answered when asked if he'd consider granting Manafort a presidential pardon in the future:
I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad, when you look at what’s going on there. I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.
The statement, according to some, is a reckless one.
Because attempting to influence a jury outside of the courtroom is a crime, it's highly unusual for someone with the stature of a sitting president to express an opinion of a defendant in an ongoing trial. Jurors are told to ignore any information on the trial that isn't presented in the court as evidence. With a trial as notable as Manafort's and in an age of immediate news, that's undoubtedly difficult. Trump's statements on it only exacerbate the situation.
Because the Manafort jury was finalized in less than a day, it's hard to guarantee jurors were screened for partisan leanings as exhaustively as a trial of this nature mandates. With Trump's base having shown itself to be exceedingly loyal to the president, it's not far-fetched to believe a juror could take it upon him or herself to act on behalf of the president's sentiments.
It's a predicament that's alarming some.
If the jury isn't sequestered, which it isn't, how aren't Trump's comments this morning (which the jury will hear) jury tampering?— Peter Gleick (@Peter Gleick) 1534526532.0
This sounds suspiciously like Trump is sending Manafort a message to stay strong and not cut a plea deal with the g… https://t.co/tRdh5NwgUk— Joyce Alene (@Joyce Alene) 1534522430.0
Why - w/ Trump openly meddling - is the Manafort jury not sequestered? And now they leave at 5 & are off over the weekend?— John Wesley Shipp (@John Wesley Shipp) 1534533970.0
Trump: Manafort trial is a 'very sad day for our country' via @POLITICO for iOS Clear case of obstruction. Also jur… https://t.co/9ukDWFLubC— DWT (@DWT) 1534536805.0
The possibility of tampering isn't the only aspect of Trump's statement that some have found troubling.
Some seem to think that Trump is considering pardoning Manafort.
The evidence stacked against Manafort is quite formidable, with former business partners testifying against him as well as excessively lavish expenses leaving a paper trail of possible money laundering. Trump's statement seems to express that Manafort was ambushed by a justice system gone awry.
It isn't the first time the president has stood up for Manafort.
Earlier this month, the president said that Manafort was being treated worse than infamous gangster Al Capone.
Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and “Public Enemy Number… https://t.co/oJProVNYVj— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1533137747.0
The possibility of a pardon is becoming increasingly unsettling.
So I generally choose not to hang on every twist of the Mueller investigation, but if Trump pardons Manafort (after… https://t.co/yJ2YRldGEg— Chris Murphy (@Chris Murphy) 1534527484.0
Manafort attorney Kevin Downing responds to Trump's earlier pardon dangle: “It’s great to have the support of the P… https://t.co/N9wvhHTQfY— Polly Sigh (@Polly Sigh) 1534534244.0
Uh, Trump even considering a pardon for Manafort is outrageous, but aren't we missing the real headline here?! Th… https://t.co/DQwIClqdiD— John Ziegler (@John Ziegler) 1534519676.0
It doesn't appear that the jury will reach a verdict today. Now that Trump's comments are being widely reported, it's impossible to say as of now how his words may influence the jury.