The spread of President Donald Trump’s corruption continues to be revealed. As part of his at this point years of work to undermine the Russia investigation, The New York Times now reports that in mid-2017, as the probe was kicking into high gear under the leadership of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a lawyer on the president’s team discussed the possibility of pardons for two former Trump associates who have come under scrutiny — the president’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
In the time since those conversations between the respective legal teams, both men have pleaded guilty to federal charges that emerged after the Trump team apparently raised the possibility of a pardon. At the time, those involved kicked around the possibility that “the president was willing to offer pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the Mueller investigation.”
No pardons have emerged, although the possibility has been rumored as on the table at numerous junctures. Around the same time that the newly reported private conversations exploring pardons were proceeding, Trump ranted on Twitter:
‘While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS’
Trump’s insistence that the only crime in the Russia scandal was leaking was very quickly proven wrong. Manafort was charged with crimes ranging from money laundering to conspiracy against the United States, some of which he pleaded guilty to, agreeing to cooperate with authorities — until he didn’t. A federal judge recently ruled that his plea agreement was null and void because he lied after agreeing to cooperate.
Flynn, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contact with former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, possibly escaping much more serious charges via his agreement to cooperate — which for now remains intact.
He left the Trump administration in its early days as questions about the truth of his communications with Kisylak swirled, and after his departure, Trump pushed the idea that the Russia probe would be in the rearview mirror — refusing to acknowledge both then and now that both the possibility of further corrupt communications with the Kremlin and those communications’ eventually revealed existence warrant investigation.
The same Times report that revealed the president’s legal team’s efforts to preemptively get Flynn and Manafort on Trump’s side outlined another plan he attempted to ease the weight of federal investigations. Late last year, the president reportedly pressed then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker about the possibility of Trump ally and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman leading the investigation into the illegal hush money scheme the Trump team carried on with targeting women with whom he’d had affairs.
That investigation has so far included a guilty plea and agreement to cooperate from Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who’s facing three years in prison. Although Whitaker never made the switch, the president’s push otherwise sits among a number of similar behind-the-scenes steps he’s taken to attempt to paralyze the Russia investigation and its affiliates that could come back to haunt him via obstruction of justice charges.
Featured Image via YouTube screenshot