Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to fend off any effort by Donald Trump to pardon his way out of trouble with respect to the ongoing Russia investigation.
According to a new Politico report this week, the recent deal reached between Mueller and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort included “safeguards to discourage the president from pardoning Manafort.”
The report notes that Mueller “took unusual and possibly unprecedented steps to undercut President Donald Trump’s ability to pardon his former campaign chairman.”
Politico explains, “[I]f Manafort’s guilty pleas or convictions are wiped out for any reason, prosecutors immediately have the right to charge him with any other crimes he may have committed previously or confessed to during recent plea negotiations.”
Knowing that he could still be prosecuted, even with a presidential pardon, makes it much more likely for Manafort to cooperate instead of holding out for Trump to save him.
More from the report:
The plea deal Mueller struck with Manafort contains several provisions that appear intended to discourage the former Trump aide from seeking a pardon and to rein in the impact of any pardon Trump might grant.
Legal experts with sweeping views of executive power and attorneys who advocate for broad use of clemency criticized what they call an effort by Mueller’s team to tie the president’s hands.
The 17-page deal doesn’t explicitly prohibit Manafort from seeking a pardon, but some lawyers said it appears to extract a promise from Manafort not to seek another form of executive clemency that could relieve him of the obligation to turn over property worth tens of millions of dollars to the government as part of the plea bargain. The agreement also says prosecutors can come after the five identified homes or apartments, three bank accounts and a life insurance policy now or at any point in the future “without regard to the status of his criminal conviction.”
Robert Mueller knows Trump is desperate
Robert Mueller knows that as Paul Manafort cooperates with the investigation as part of a recent plea deal, Donald Trump will become increasingly desperate.
After all, as PoliticusUSA‘s Leo Vidal pointed out after the former Trump campaign manager flipped, “Paul Manafort can be a golden goose for Mueller’s investigation because he has firsthand knowledge of many key issues and events.”
This has the potential to take down not just Trump but his family, too. As a way to mitigate that legal disaster and keep Manafort from singing, the president has repeatedly been dangling a pardon for his former campaign manager.
But being the thorough, stone cold investigator that he is, Robert Mueller has already prepared for that outcome by Trump-proofing his special counsel investigation.
The only way out for Paul Manafort now is to spill the beans.