President Donald Trump’s lawyer suggested last year that President Trump should pardon two of his former aides, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
According to three people familiar with the discussions, John Dowd made the suggestion to Flynn and Manafort’s lawyers when special counsel Robert Mueller was building his cases against both of the former aides. The timing suggests Dowd could have offered pardons to influence Manafort and Flynn’s decision on how to plead.
Dowd reportedly had the conversation with Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, last summer. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials in December, a move that Dowd reportedly privately said he didn’t understand because he had told Kelner Trump was prepared to pardon Flynn.
Dowd reportedly spoke with Manafort’s lawyer Reginald Brown, who is no longer his attorney, before Manafort was charged with money laundering, conspiring against the U.S. and failure to register as a foreign agent, among other things. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has said that he doesn’t want a pardon from Trump because he doesn’t think he did anything wrong.
Dowd, who resigned from Trump’s legal team last week, denied he had discussions with either of the former aides’ attorneys about pardons, he told the Times.
Trump has reportedly been curious about his pardoning power since last year, when he inquired about the extent of his ability to pardon during a meeting with White House lawyers. Since coming into office, Trump has pardoned two individuals. In August, Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who supported his campaign, for a contempt of court conviction. This month pardoned a sailor who was charged with obstruction of justice and retaining national defense information.
In December, Trump told reporters that he wasn’t prepared to talk about pardoning Flynn “yet,” saying he’d like to wait and “see what happens” first.
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