In his first televised interview since leaving prison — where he was at times sent to solitary confinement to "protect" him — former Trump campaign Chair Paul Manafort said he was never the target of the "weaponization" of the federal government.
The target was always then-candidate Donald Trump. He was "just a means to an end."
And the parallels between his saga and the Jan. 6 prisoners — some sent to solitary confinement for 23 hours a day — have Manafort alarmed about the disruptions of the peaceful transfer of power and silencing dissent of the government from the will of the people.
"I always felt they were targeting me and a couple of others to try and get at the president — then-candidate Trump and then President Trump — which is one of the reasons why I find it ironic that what's going on today with these claims about Jan. 6, when the people who are pushing the Jan. 6 allegations are the very ones who for 4 1/2 years refused to recognize the results of the 2016 election," Manafort told Fox News' "Hannity" on Wednesday night, teasing his book "Political Prisoner: Persecuted, Prosecuted, but Not Silenced," due out in August.
Manafort details the maximum pressure campaign laid against him, using stories he said he "knew were fake" to try to dig up dirt on Trump before he won the election, then during the transition, and finally while Trump was the U.S. president.
"I will talk about this in the book, when they were putting pressure on me to admit to facts that weren't true, and I'll talk about those facts and those expectations, and the quid pro quo that was understood was that I would be treated in a very lenient way," Manafort said. "They didn't understand that there was no way I was going to lie.
"There was no way that they could force me into giving up the president, you know, and I never felt uncomfortable talking to them because I knew that as long as I told the truth, I had nothing to fear. But I was wrong."
Manafort also detailed the use of the psychological warfare of sending him to solitary confinement under the guise to "protect" him.
"Solitary confinement is a terrible thing," Manafort said. "They said it was to protect me. I never believed that for a minute. It didn't protect me. What it did was it put me into a situation, I'm in an 8 by 10 room with no windows, with no access to people, no access to outside. And limited ability to communicate with my lawyers.
"It's inhumane what they call solitary confinement."
It is also what Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., told Newsmax — what Jan. 6 pretrial defendants are subjected to as "political prisoners" in the Washington, D.C., jail — some not charged, some of nonviolent crimes, some allegedly abused.
Manafort noted in his case "they overcharged me" in an attempt to jail him "forever," because "they didn't want me to be free."
"There was no doubt in my mind from day one that I was a means to an end, and frankly, after they didn't succeed with me, they used the same tactics against Roger Stone," Manafort noted.
"The technique that they used on him and me was not because they cared about either of us. Who they cared about was Donald Trump. And we were the way, without us, they didn't think they could get Trump."
Manafort recalls being in court, laughing with his lawyer during a hearing on his plea agreement.
"There were all kinds of stories that, 'Donald Trump was going down now; Paul Manafort was going to turn on him,'" Manafort said. "I said, 'Look, make sure they understand I plan on telling the truth, and when I tell the truth, not only is Donald Trump not going down, but their whole case is going to blow up.' And that's what happened."
Manafort was found guilty on just 8 of the 18 charges he faced, none related to Trump, nor collusion to undermine an election. The eight counts include two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud, and one count of failing to declare a foreign bank account.
He laments being targeted in an effort to undermine the Trump campaign and the U.S. president in political opposition.
"It was a weaponization of the law enforcement and national security operations," Manafort said. "In my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined this type of targeting, to undermine his presidency and to try and remove him from office. And there was no way I was going to ever be a participant in that collusion, charade."
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