President Trump boarded a plane to West Virginia just minutes after Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, two men who were formerly among the president's closest aides, succumbed to their legal troubles Tuesday. Cohen, the president's former personal lawyer, entered a guilty plea on eight counts of financial crimes, including admitting to breaking campaign finance laws; Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, was found guilty on eight charges of tax and bank fraud by a Virginia jury.
Trump is in West Virginia for a campaign rally, and the nature of the news led a White House insider to wonder whether he might do something impulsive in front of his live audience, as he is wont to do. Specifically, reports BuzzFeed News' Tarini Parti, the unnamed source "close to the White House" is afraid that Trump might pardon his former campaign chairman on a whim — while television cameras capture the scene live:
Source close to the White House says what a lot of people are thinking, with Trump on his way to W. Va.: "What if he pardons Manafort live on television? This is crisis PR firms worst nightmare.."
— Tarini Parti (@tparti) August 21, 2018
Trump was confronted by a throng of reporters on the tarmac when he landed in West Virginia, and while he said he "[feels] badly for both" Cohen and Manafort, he spoke at length in defense of the latter, calling him a "good man." He conspicuously avoided discussing Cohen's decision to plead guilty, instead repeating his complaint that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation is a "witch hunt." Kimberly Alters