President Donald Trump’s lawyer was pushing the idea that Trump’s top former advisers Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort are to be pardoned.
The idea appeared as special counsel Robert Mueller was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation, The New York Times reported.
According to Times, the talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were worried 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.
Apparently, Dowd’s conversation with Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, happened after Dowd took over last summer as the President’s personal lawyer, during which time a grand jury was hearing evidence against Flynn on a range of potential crimes.
Flynn, who was Trump’s first national security adviser, agreed in late November to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation. Later in December he pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his communication with the Russian ambassador and received favorable sentencing terms.
Dowd apparently stated that he did not know why Flynn accepted a plea while telling Kelner that the President had long believed that the case against Mr. Flynn was flimsy and was prepared to pardon him, the Times wrote.