Will Manafort Get a Pardon?
Robyn: CNN legal analyst Page Pate is here with me now to discuss all of this. Great to have you in the studio.
Page: Thank you.
Robyn: So, after all of this time with the Mueller investigation working on all of this with Paul Manafort, it appears that the President intends to pardon him anyway. Now, the President says he hasn’t had any discussions about this with Manafort and his team. Do you buy that
Page: I don’t buy that no discussions have occurred. Now, it may be the fact that the President has not personally talked to Manafort and said, “Look, I’m gonna pardon you. There’s nothing to worry about.” But I do think that message has been made clear to Manafort, probably by his lawyer, perhaps through Trump’s lawyers.
But I think the message has been sent from the President that, “If you hold tight, if you do not provide any evidence against me or anyone else in my White House or my inner circle, then I’m gonna take care of you at the end of the day. You do not have to worry about actually serving that sentence.”
Robyn: What impact does something like that have on the credibility of a President, given the reputation of someone like Paul Manafort?
Page: You know, we’ve never seen anything like this before, where the President has the ability to pardon someone who could be a witness against him in a potential criminal proceeding. Now, our constitution gives the President almost an unlimited right to pardon someone, whoever he wants for whatever reason.
But in this case, I think it’s tempting for the President to use that pardon power in an unconstitutional manner, in a, I guess you would say, corrupt persuasion, to try to use it to obstruct the criminal investigation, the Mueller investigation. And if that occurs, then I think Robert Mueller does have a strong argument that the President is obstructing justice.
Robyn: So, how do you think the Mueller investigation then would respond to that? And I did want to ask you, too, what sort of sentence do you think Paul Manafort will get? If it even matters now, if he’s gonna get a pardon anyway.
Page: Well, I don’t think he’s gonna have to serve it, at least not on the federal level. Given the amount of money that was involved in Paul Manafort’s case, all of the money that he was receiving from the Ukraine and the folks over there that he was servicing, the things that he was doing with that money, the money laundering convictions, the sentencing guidelines in federal court are gonna call for a lot of prison time.
But I do believe, and it may be after sentencing, but at some point, before he actually serves out that sentence, President Trump will likely pardon him. Now, what does that mean to the Mueller investigation going forward? As far as Trump is concerned, I don’t think you’re ever gonna see the special counsel try to indict President Trump. It’s just too unclear under our laws if that can even be possible.
But I think we’re gonna see, at some point, a report from the special counsel’s office that will suggest the conduct that the President is engaging in now and engaged in in the past could be obstruction of justice.
Robyn: Right. And in addition to this, so we are learning that President Trump gave in writing an explanation to Robert Mueller’s team that, to the best of his recollection, he was not told previously by Roger Stone about Wikileaks and he said he didn’t know about the meeting between his son, Don Jr., the campaign group that was with…meeting with that Russian lawyer. Again, your legal perspective on that.
Page: Well, we’re not surprised by his answer. I mean, that’s consistent with what he said before in the media, publicly. But I am interested, and I find it very significant, the language that he now uses. I mean, he’s never said, “To the best of my recollection.” I mean, his tweets, his public statements have always been crystal clear. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t know about it. No collusion. Witch hunt.”
But now, I think, with his lawyers’ input, he’s saying, “Well, to the best of my recollection.” And I think that does keep him from being later charged with making a false statement if the special counsel can prove what he’s saying is not accurate.
Robyn: And, I mean, that has been the problem for his legal team, hasn’t it? Because he can’t seem to keep the story straight.
Page: Absolutely. Even today, when he’s talking about the possibility of giving a pardon to Paul Manafort, at the very moment when it looks like Paul Manafort is going back into hot water because he’s refusing to cooperate.
Robyn: So, the best of my recollection is a line we should all remember, because that can save us, right?
Page: If you’re ever in trouble, absolutely.
Robyn: Okay. Page Pate, always a pleasure.
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.