Trump says he feels very badly for former campaign chairman Manafort
Former Donald Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort faces 18 counts related to tax and bank fraud (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he felt very badly for his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who was sentenced a day earlier to less than four years in prison for financial crimes uncovered as part of the U.S. special counsel’s Russia probe.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, also said it has been a tough time for Manafort, and said he was honored by the judge’s remarks at the Thursday sentencing.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it’s been a very, very tough time,” he said. “The judge - I mean for whatever reason I was very honored by it - also made the statement that this had nothing to do with collusion with Russia.”

Trump reiterated his position that he did not assist Russia in allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election that he won, saying, “I don’t collude with Russia.”

Russia has denied the allegations that it meddled in the election, which led to the investigation spearheaded by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that has ensnared Manafort and others in Trump’s orbit.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis