Paul Manafort will plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy as part of the Russia probe — but many aides believe President Donald Trump will pardon his former campaign chairman.
The 69-year-old Manafort will plead guilty Friday to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice following his convictions last month on tax fraud and bank fraud charges.
But numerous aides to the president told Politico that Trump will most likely wipe out those guilty pleas and convictions by granting Manafort a pardon, although that does not come without additional risks.
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that such a pardon would be a “best-case scenario” for special counsel Robert Mueller, because she said that action would become additional evidence of obstruction that could be used against the president.
“It is clear that the president can obstruct justice,” wrote Sam Berger, former senior policy adviser at the White House Domestic Policy Council. “And — as reflected in past precedent, a Supreme Court decision, and constitutional history — abuse of the pardon power can constitute such obstruction and be grounds for impeachment.”
Berger, now senior adviser at the Center for American Progress, said there’s broad understanding that Trump using pardons to give himself, his associates and his family a “Get Out of Jail Free card” would be “terribly wrong,” but he said a remedy would be up to Congress.
“There is no legal basis for the claim that Trump is above the law,” Berger wrote. “There is no question that obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense and no question that abuse of the pardon power can constitute obstruction.”
Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told Politico that Manafort’s guilty plea would not erase his chance for a pardon.
“I don’t see why it would foreclose it, no,” said Giuliani, who has said he advised Trump to hold off on a Manafort pardon until Mueller’s investigation was complete.