News is just breaking that in recent weeks President Trump sought his lawyers advice on pardoning Paul Manafort. His lawyers recommending he wait until after the Special Counsel investigation had ended. Earlier this afternoon, I got this from a former federal prosecutor …
Trump is clearly gearing up to pardon Manafort and wants desperately to do so. Such a pardon in my view would be thoroughly corrupt, an egregious abuse of power, and would likely constitute obstruction of justice. He has a deep personal interest in protecting Manafort and this would be no different than taking a bribe in exchange for a pardon. Anyone who assists him in taking such an action would have aiding and abetting and conspiracy exposure. Those around Trump, including the lawyers who he is going to want to provide him legal cover, need to think hard before they facilitate a pardon under these circumstances.
I don’t know whether this is right or wrong. But you’re obviously dealing with a host of issues that the courts have simply never spoken to. The pardon power does appear to be absolute in the sense that the pardon itself is unreviewable. It can’t be taken back, no matter what causes triggered it. But that doesn’t mean the act itself can’t constitute a crime.
So Trump pardons Manafort. Manafort is free and clear no matter what. There seems little question that a President who took a bribe would be committing a crime, one he could be prosecuted for after leaving office. Indeed, I don’t think we have to guess. Consider that there was an extensive investigation into Bill Clinton’s last day in office pardons, particularly the pardon of Marc Rich. Small world. Mary Jo White was originally appointed to investigate the matter. She was later replaced by none other than James Comey in 2002. The investigation finally concluded in 2004 with no finding of illegality.
We don’t need to rehearse the specifics of the Marc Rich pardon. The key is that the existence of the investigation makes clear that no one thought that there could be no crime as a constitutional matter. In other words, it was apparently treated as a given that as a matter of law and constitution it was possible for Clinton to have committed a crime in pardoning Marc Rich – presumably by some sort of bribery. The facts just didn’t back it up. So this does not seem far-fetched. And this would not be just any pardon. It appears to be the one Trump knows might be necessary to keep the full truth from ever coming to light.
As a separate matter, let me go back to my “We Know Trump is Guilty” post from last week. As I said, by the terms I explained, we already know Trump is guilty. If he is this deep into the planning of pardoning Paul Manafort, someone with whom he has little personal relationship and who has clearly committed a host of financial crimes, we really, really know Trump is guilty. Indeed, we have a key additional fact in hand which we may have strongly suspected but did not know: Paul Manafort must know things that could destroy Trump, members of Trump’s family or both. There is no other plausible explanation for this commitment to grabbing the pardon kryptonite by the hands and swallowing it whole. Scratch that. There’s no other explanation, plausible or not.
Rudy Giuliani is telling the Post that over the “last two to three weeks” (in other words, over the course of the Manafort trial) Trump has “expressed anger and frustration about how [Manafort] has been treated.” “He feels Manafort has been mistreated. Nobody in a case like this get’s (sic) raided in the middle of the night, put in solitary confinement.”
As we strongly suspect from Mueller’s pursuit of Manafort, the Special Counsel Office’s appears to believe that it is Manafort who knows the full story. This appears to be something on which Trump and his nemesis, former FBI Director Mueller, agree.