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WASHINGTON — President Trump is not ruling out a pardon for Paul Manafort, who is facing lengthy jail time for fraud and other criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” Trump said in an Oval Office interview with New York Post reporters Marisa Schultz and Nikki Schwab.

In the interview, Trump also compared Mueller’s investigation to the 1950s era of Joseph McCarthy.

“We are in the McCarthy era. This is no better than McCarthy. And that was a bad situation for the country. But this is where we are. And it’s a terrible thing,” Trump said.

The prospect of a pardon for Manafort has alarmed watchdog groups, who warn that Trump is sending a signal to his former campaign chairman.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Manafort’s lawyer had briefed Trump’s legal team about what his client told Mueller after Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel as part of a plea deal.

Prosecutors, though, say Manafort breached the agreement by lying to them “on a variety of subject matters,” and they are asking that he be sentenced. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Manafort plead guilty on September to two charges of conspiracy. Manafort’s legal team denies that he has been untruthful.

Manafort also faces sentencing for separate fraud charges. A jury in Northern Virginia found him guilty of eight counts last summer.