By Alisha Haridasani
The decision by a federal judge to send President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort to prison on Friday ratchets up friction between the President and the Justice Department, as his personal lawyer demanded an end to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sent Manafort to prison after revoking his bail because of accusations of witness tampering bought forward by prosecutors on Mueller's team.
In light of the judge's decision, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani floated the idea of wielding "presidential pardons" to clean up the aftermath of Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, his strongest rebuke yet of the special counsel.
Giuliani also called on the Justice Department to "investigate the investigators" and halt Mueller's probe all together.
"It may just be a bluster but it could be a surreal stand-off moving here," Ben Schreckinger, national political correspondent at Politico told Cheddar.
"We may find out as soon as tonight or perhaps on Monday whether the president may attempt to replace either Rod Rosenstein, his deputy attorney general, or even Jeff Sessions, his attorney general."
Manafort is the first Trump official to be sent to jail in connection with the Mueller probe; his trial is set for the fall. Manafort’s jail time could give Mueller more leverage in persuading Manafort to testify against Trump.
Manafort has, so far, "been very defiant," said Schreckinger. But "we're seeing prosecutors say that once you actually put someone in jail, revoke their bail, they often become much more willing to co-operate."
Trump tried to downplay his connection to Manafort, stating on Fox News that he only worked on the campaign for around 50 days, much lower than the almost 150 days Manafort actually spent with Trump's team.
"Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and many other top political people and campaigns," Trump tweeted. "Didn't know Manafort was the head of the Mob."
Prosecutors accused Manafort of attempting to persuade two witnesses to lie to the jury about Manafort’s lobbying work for ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.
Putting Manafort behind bars could also pressure his former colleagues to co-operate with Mueller. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen is considering co-operating with the special counsel, according to reports on Friday, and the former national security adviser Michael Flynn has been working with Mueller since December.
Manafort, who pleaded not guilty on Friday to the obstruction of justice charges, was granted a $10 million bail last year but has been under house arrest because he was unable to come up with the money. He will be tried in September for multiple charges, including money laundering, tax evasion, and conspiracy. A separate trial in Virginia will begin on July 25.
In revoking Manafort's bail Judge Jackson noted that she had admonished Manafort earlier not to contact potential witnesses. “You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,” Jackson said.
“The government motion will be granted, and the defendant will be detained.”