President Donald Trump has tried to distance himself from his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, insisting that Manafort only worked for him for a very short time and that his recent convictions on tax- and bank-fraud charges have nothing to do with the campaign. But Trump’s and Manafort’s legal interests may be more aligned than either of them have let on.
According to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, Manafort and Trump are part of a joint-defense agreement that allows them to share confidential information about the Russia investigation under the protection of attorney-client privilege. “All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” Giuliani recently told Politico. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time, where, as long as our clients authorize it, therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”
Former federal prosecutors turned defense attorneys told me that such agreements are indeed common in multi-defendant cases like Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, which has embroiled dozens of White House staffers, Trump-campaign advisers, and associates of the president. Essentially, they said, these agreements allow defendants to get their stories straight—and could help Manafort if he’s looking for an eventual pardon.