Will Trump Pardon Paul Manafort? Who Can Say? (That's A Joke.)
They're not subtle, are they? This week, Donald Trump did everything but dance naked outside Paul Manafort's courthouse in Alexandria holding a sign that said, PAULY, HANG TIGHT! YOU'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS! He's not just dangling that pardon, he's grabbing it by the ....
(It's been a long week.)
He mentioned pardoning Manafort. I think he feels bad for Manafort. They were friends, he didn't work for him for very long, worked for him for basically a hundred days.
Thanks, Ainsley! Five months, 100 days, SAME DIFF. And wasn't the Trump team happily accepting Manafort's list of White Dudes I Owe Shit To for political appointments after the election? But we digress!
First, let's point out that this is not how pardons are supposed to go. There is literally an Office of the Pardon Attorney, which most certainly does not include Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow. There is a multi-step process of review by the Justice Department, which includes a five-year waiting period. So why was Trump consulting Rudy and Jay about pardoning Paul Manafort before his trial even started? The Post originally reported yesterday,
President Trump asked his lawyers several weeks ago for their advice on the possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort, his lawyer said Thursday.
The subject of pardoning Manafort came up as Trump's former campaign chairman faced multiple charges of bank fraud and tax evasion in an Alexandria court and the president was expressing his anger at how federal prosecutors had "beat up" and mistreated Manafort, Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said in an interview.
Trump's lawyers counseled the president against the idea of pardoning anyone linked to the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, according to Giuliani, saying Trump should at least wait until special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his probe. Giuliani said the president agreed and did not push the issue further.
"He said yes," Giuliani said. "He agreed with us."
Giuliani said Trump was simply seeking advice as he complained about Manafort's criminal exposure on charges unrelated to his work on Trump's campaign.
So, Trump will be issuing those pardons after the midterms. Got it.
But then Rudy Giuliani, who is currently attending to the president's legal needs from a golf course in Scotland, issued this correction, according to CNN's Jeremy Diamond.
And suddenly the Washington Post story was amended to a general discussion of good people deserving of pardons, taking place long before the Manafort trial. Big hat tip to NYCSouthpaw (aka Luppe Luppen), who laid it out in an epic Twitter thread. Here's how the story changed in the 40 minutes after publication.
So, Trump wasn't dangling a pardon for Paul Manafort. He was just dispensing loving mercy like the benevolent despot he fancies himself. Cue the stories about Trump issuing an avalanche of pardons for brown people.
Because bleeding heart liberals won't even notice pasty Paul Manafort if he's part of a batch of people legitimately deserving of clemency?
Yuuuuugely classy play! The classiest!
But is it a smart play? The pardon power itself is absolute, but perhaps the Special Counsel would look askance at deploying it to convince a criminal defendant not to cooperate with law enforcement officials. When news broke in March that Trump's former lawyer John Dowd had raised the possibility of a pardon with Mike Flynn's lawyers before Flynn flipped, Harvard law professor Alex Whiting suggested in Just Security that the offer itself might constitute obstruction of justice.
Because of the way a pardon dangle operates, it should acquire none of the deference that might be afforded an actual pardon, and if the dangle is found to be orchestrated with a corrupt motive, it should qualify as a potential act of obstruction of justice.
Dowd now vociferously denies that there was any dangle at all, but if one occurred it will be fairly easy to prove. Dowd also has every reason to try to deny it. Not only does it look bad in the court of public opinion. It is bad in the court of law.
Add it to goddamn pile, dude.
LOCK. HIM. UP.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.