Former criminal investigator and criminal defense attorney Seth Abramson explains that Trump will never be able to pardon his way out of trouble.
All hell broke loose yesterday for team Trump, with news that Trump’s former personal attorney pleaded guilty to 8 federal felonies at nearly the exact instant that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was learning that a jury had found him guilty of 8 federal felonies.
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Manhattan courthouse to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws, telling a federal judge that he worked to silence two women before the 2016 election at the direction of then-candidate Trump.
Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank and two campaign finance violations: willfully causing an illegal corporate contribution and making an excessive campaign contribution.
When it came to the campaign finance violations, Cohen implicated the president directly. He told the court that he worked with Trump to pay off two women to keep their stories of alleged affairs with Trump from becoming public before Election Day.
That last part is important, as Seth Abramson explained in a five-part Twitter thread posted earlier today.
The first two tweets pretty much said it all:
- “My take on the legality of a Manafort pardon: when Cohen revealed that Trump knew of and approved Manafort—and others—meeting with Russian agents to get stolen Clinton materials 3+ weeks ago, it made Trump an unindicted Manafort co-conspirator. POTUS can’t pardon co-conspirators.”
- “Pardoning a co-conspirator is a form of ‘self-pardon,’ as I argued here on the feed in July 2017. POTUS has unlimited pardon power but with one exception: the pardon can’t itself be a crime. Self-pardon or pardons for corrupt—obstructive—purposes won’t be upheld by the SCOTUS.”
Continuing, Abramson explained what to expect from Trump regarding both Cohen and Manafort:
- “Why would Trump pardon Manafort after his trials/sentencing? Because then he’d be *free*—free in terms of his liberty *and* free to answer a subpoena on Russia-related issues with a representation that he’ll plead the Fifth Amendment on Russia (not covered by his convictions).”
- “So Trump can’t do anything about Cohen now—which is why all you’ll hear on Cohen is Trump attacking him on Twitter. Meanwhile, he’ll continue to praise Manafort to the heavens because as NBC reported months ago Trump thinks that Manafort can hurt him. And “hurt him” on Russia.”
Abramson concluded his analysis, offering the following advice to Cohen, moving forward, to prevent Trump from getting away with attempting a “Hail Mary” in the form of a Manafort pardon:
- “What Cohen needs to do is give Mueller a proffer ASAP, so if Trump pardons Manafort—as I think he will if he thinks it’s his last hope—Mueller can seek standing to challenge it by saying, ‘You *must* stop this—because he have sworn evidence Manafort is a Trump co-conspirator.'”
For those unfamiliar with his work, Abramson has been publishing extensive Twitter threads and mega-threads regarding the ongoing investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. If you are interested in reading more, Twitter user @chicken_afraido created a document linking to every Trump-Russia thread published by Abramson going back to autumn of 2016. The document begins with his updated bio from 8 December 2017, but then hops to his latest threads and works in reverse chronological order. He also has a web page linking to Abramson’s threads using category listings for those interested in a breakdown by topic.