President Donald Trump’s personal attorney floated the idea of presidential pardons with lawyers for two of the highest-profile targets of the Robert Mueller probe, it was reported Wednesday.
The New York Times said that John Dowd – who quit the Trump legal team last week – had suggested that the president could use his powers to pardon Mike Flynn, the disgraced national security adviser, and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chair.
The report raises questions over whether Down was hoping to prevent both men from co-operating.
Flynn has since taken a plea deal from Mueller and is now a convicted felon and co-operating witness with the probe.
Pardon you? John Dowd, who until last week was working for the Trump legal team dealing with the Robert Mueller probe, is reported to have floated the president pardoning Mike Flynn
Pardon you too? Paul Manafort’s lawyers are also said to have had a pardon floated by John Dowd
Manafort, however, is fighting a string of felony charges of tax evasion, money-laundering and breaking foreign agents registration laws and on Tuesday made a fresh legal bid to have them thrown out of court.
The New York Times did not say when the pardons discussions took place but Flynn pleaded guilty on December 1 to lying to the FBI, while the Mueller probe began in May 2017.
Three sources told the New York Times about the development but Dowd denied discussing pardons.
‘There were no discussions. Period. As far as I know, no discussions,’ he told the newspaper.
The development could itself become part of the Mueller probe with the special counsel known to be looking into whether Trump and those around him obstructed justice.
Trump has virtually unlimited powers to pardon people even before they have been charged with a crime.
But offering it as a possibility to someone who is the focus of a criminal investigation with the intention of limiting their possible co-operation with that investigation could be of interest to Mueller – and those around the president do not carry the same power of pardon as he does.
Sources close to Flynn say the decorated military officer plans to sell the 2,118-square-foot home in Alexandria (above center) that he bought in November 2015 for $774,000
The house is estimated now to be worth about $820,000, according to real estate agent Redfin. Above the interior of the home is pictured before Flynn purchased it
Trump himself discussed the issue of pardoning Flynn two weeks after he pleaded guilty.
‘I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,’ he said.
‘We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the F.B.I. and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.’
However he has not pardoned Flynn and the extent of Flynn’s co-operation remains unknown.
In his plead deal he agreed to hand over all relevant information and even if asked to wear a wire-tap. It is not known if he had done so before the deal was made public.
Flynn took the deal as his legal costs mounted and amid questions over whether his son Michael Flynn Jr would be dragged into it as well.
He has put his $820,000 home in Old Town Alexandria, close to Washington D.C., on the market and his family set up an appeal to help pay his legal bills.
Sources close to Flynn said last year that he decided to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian officials during the presidential transition because he felt abandoned by Trump.
Flynn is prepared to testify that Trump directed him to make contact with Russians when he was a presidential candidate, ABC News reported.
The former three-star Army general was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered by Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 US election and potential collusion by Trump aides.
Russia has denied meddling in the campaign and Trump has denied any collusion took place.
Under a plea bargain deal, Flynn admitted in a Washington court that he lied when asked by FBI investigators about his conversations last December with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, just weeks before Trump took office.
Prosecutors said the two men discussed US sanctions against Russia and that Flynn also asked Kislyak to help delay a UN vote seen as damaging to Israel.
On both occasions, he appeared to be undermining the policies of outgoing President Barack Obama.