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President Donald Trump is sending an unmistakable and daringly public message to his jailed ex-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, that his defiance of special counsel Robert Mueller could eventually see him walk free from jail.

And Trump’s move — delivered in an interview with the New York Post on Wednesday — is more than just an effort to show mercy to a former associate. It is the latest sign of an increasingly aggressive effort to define the end game of the investigation with what looks more and more like an effort to use his presidential power to protect himself.

Trump’s latest maneuvering came amid indications that Mueller’s team, after a hiatus in midterm election season, is accelerating toward a pivotal moment in an investigation that has cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency.

As always with the President, it is difficult to decipher whether his comments represent a clear intent to act or are a case of a volatile personality blowing off steam in a way that does not meet accepted standards for someone who could be in legal jeopardy.

But Trump appears to be making a significant gamble. His pardon comments could be interpreted as another bid to thwart Mueller’s investigation into election interference in plain sight — even as he is himself a subject of the special counsel’s obstruction of justice inquiries.

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