(NewsNation) — Paul Manafort expressed his loyalty to former President Donald Trump in a new interview with incoming NewsNation host Chris Cuomo, saying he believes the former president will run again for president in 2024 and the search warrant executed at his Mar-a-Lago resort only increased the odds.
Speaking Tuesday to Cuomo on his podcast “The Chris Cuomo Project,” Manafort said he feels even more strongly than he did two weeks ago that Trump will run in the 2024 election.
“Has he told me that personally? No. But I know the man,” Manafort said. “I know that when he was elected president in 2016, people didn’t understand why he was elected, how he was elected. And they didn’t understand him as a person. They still don’t. And the raid on his home was not something that was going to discourage them.”
Manafort said he would bet it is a 96% chance Trump runs again. Manafort went on to say he doesn’t think those behind the search at Mar-a-Lago thought through “the consequences of the activity.”
“It’s unprecedented,” Manafort said, calling the allegations against Trump “quite spurious.”
The FBI’s search warrant, executed earlier this month, is related to an investigation over whether Trump mishandled presidential records.
Investigators said they found sets of classified documents, including some that were top secret, during their search of Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s team claims these documents were declassified. While former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in an interview with Newsmax that the president does have the authority to declassify documents, doing so takes a “formal structure,” he added.
“I think if it’s true that the documents were there, there’ll be an explanation,” Manafort said. “But the point is that … even if you’re frustrated with dealing with somebody who could be your next political opponent, this sends a terrible signal around the world.”
Manafort served as campaign manager to Trump during the 2016 election and later became a subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians.
While Manafort was the first among Trump associates to be charged as part of Mueller’s investigation, the charges were unrelated to his work on the campaign or the focus of Mueller’s investigation. He was convicted on eight counts, with a jury deciding he hid from the IRS millions of dollars he earned from work in Ukraine.
He spent close to two years in prison for bank and tax fraud, illegal foreign lobbying and witness tampering, before being released to home confinement due to the pandemic.
He was later pardoned by Trump during the final days of his presidency. Manafort told Cuomo that he never asked Trump for a pardon while in prison.
Trump, Manafort said, was getting “attacked” on all sides because of the controversy. Although he was wanted a pardon — “I was in prison I think two Thanksgivings, two Christmases, and every time I expected and hoped for something” — Manafort never asked for one.
“I never asked because I felt he would do the right thing,” Manafort said in part to Cuomo. “It happened because I knew it would and I knew the man.”
The Manhattan district attorney sought to prosecute Manafort on state charges similar to the federal ones he was convicted of, but New York’s highest court rejected the effort.
Most recently, Manafort, in an interview with Insider, admitted to sharing 2016 campaign polling data with a suspect Russian intelligence agent, Konstantin Kilimnik.
In his book titled “Political Prisoner: Persecuted, Prosecuted, But Not Silenced” released this month, Manafort gives his account of this Mueller investigation and his time in prison. He says he was wrongly convicted of “process crimes” that were only brought in an effort to get him to testify against Trump.
During his interview with Cuomo, Manafort maintained his innocence, arguing that there was no “actual evidence against him” and that it was all testimony.
“I was convicted in the court of public opinion before the trial even opened. I mean, that was the whole strategy behind a gag order on me, putting me in solitary confinement, and then leaking anonymous stuff,” he said. “I believed I was guilty reading the headlines about me. You read my Wikipedia page. I don’t know who that is … I didn’t commit the crimes that I was accused of.”
When asked by Cuomo whether he believes the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, as the former president falsely claims, Manafort said, “There’s election fraud in all elections.”
“You win elections before the election day, not after the election day, and if the fraud has happened on election day, it’s because you didn’t prepare correctly,” Manafort said.
Regardless of how he felt about the election, however, Manafort said Biden was going to be certified.
On Jan.6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol aiming to stop Biden’s certification, Manafort said he “stayed away” from Washington.
“It was over,” he said. “Like it or not, I move on after Election Day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.