Oh, good! More news about Trump lawyers.
Or actually, that’s not quite accurate. In this case it’s more news about Trump’s former lawyers, a category of people which is getting more members by the week as everyone either resigns or leaks to the press that they’re planning on resigning in the not-so-distant future.
You’ll recall that Trump has been a bit defensive lately when it comes to his legal team in light of John Dowd’s resignation, a “rumor” that Don McGahn wants out, the failure to launch with diGenova, and the fact that multiple high profile attorneys have turned him down on the “generous” offer to represent him in the Mueller probe.
Basically, Trump swears up and down that everyone is beating down his door for a chance at the “fame & fortune” that would come with taking him on as a client, but that contention has been proven demonstrably false over the past two weeks and that’s really – really – pissing him off.
Well on Wednesday, the New York Times is out reporting that John Dowd once suggested to Paul Manfort and Michael Flynn that Trump could look at pardoning the two men.
So that would be Trump pardoning one guy who is facing a list of charges so long that one struggles to comprehend them all (see our full Manafort archive here), and another guy who has already pleaded guilty (full Flynn archive here). Obviously, the President was concerned about what exactly ol’ Paul and Mike might say under pressure. Here’s the Times:
The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency. Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.
Mr. Dowd’s conversation with Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, occurred sometime after Mr. Dowd took over last summer as the president’s personal lawyer, at a time when a grand jury was hearing evidence against Mr. Flynn on a range of potential crimes.
The pardon discussion with Mr. Manafort’s attorney, Reginald J. Brown, came before his client was indicted in October on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes.
Because they had to add this caveat no matter how laughable, the Times does say that it’s “unclear whether Mr. Dowd discussed the pardons with Mr. Trump before bringing them up with the other lawyers.” We’ll let you draw your own conclusions there (hint: of course he fucking did).
Dowd is denying this, telling the Times the following:
There were no discussions. Period.
Apparently, he hedged that a little bit by saying this in the same damn breath:
As far as I know, no discussions.
Well which is it, John? Because those two statements aren’t the same.
Anyway, Manafort and Flynn’s lawyers are refusing to comment and Ty Cobb (who we would bet won’t remain on the Trump train for much longer either) says the only time he’s heard about any pardons is when the press has asked him about it. And yes, he really said that.
Meanwhile, CBS reports that Manafort is indeed betting on a pardon from Trump. To wit:
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is now betting his future on a presidential pardon, legal sources with knowledge of his strategy tell CBS News’ Paula Reid. According to the sources, Manafort is not planning to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and and will fight the charges through to trial.
Good luck, Paul! Because if Trump pardons you, everyone will know he’s guilty and if he doesn’t pardon you, you’re going to prison for a long – long – time.
Perhaps more important is the issue of whether Dowd’s purported pardon offers are further evidence of obstruction of justice. Here’s the Times again:
Legal experts are divided about whether a pardon offer, even if given in exchange for continued loyalty, can be considered obstruction of justice. Presidents have constitutional authority to pardon people who face or were convicted of federal charges.
But even if a pardon were ultimately aimed at hindering an investigation, it might still pass legal muster, said Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and a professor at Harvard Law School.
Yes, but it wouldn’t “pass muster” in the court of public opinion, that’s for sure.
And you know, maybe you can’t blame Dowd. After all, he’s the same guy who said in December that Trump tweeting out what certainly sounded like an admission to obstruction didn’t matter because – and this is a direct quote – “the President cannot obstruct justice.”
Unless this is in any way, shape, or form unclear, these people are so fucked.
Every, single last one of them.