Conservative legal experts who’ve reviewed the plea deal between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and special counsel Mueller are concerned about the lengths investigators have gone to in order to prevent Trump from pardoning Manafort, according to Politico.
The experts say that provisions in the plea deal virtually “tie Trump’s hands.”
The deal Manafort agreed to specifies that he will not seek a pardon from Donald Trump, and he will not “seek another form of executive clemency that could relieve him of the obligation to turn over tens of millions of [dollars worth of] properties to the government as part of the plea bargain.”
David Rivkin, a Justice Department official under Ronald Reagan and George Bush said, “What is most concerning to me is that Mr. Mueller, who is a part of the executive branch and is supposed to follow all of DOJ’s policies and procedures, is specifically seeking to impede the ability of the president to exercise his constitutional pardon authority.”
From Politico: the 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.”
Mark Osler, University of St. Thomas law professor, said that Mueller is focused on the long game and the plea deal has made it very difficult for Trump to offer Manafort a pardon, saying, “These waivers are troubling because they have to do with future events we can’t predict. They did a pretty good job hiding what they did, but as part of these agreements, sometimes the most important things you want to bury it a little.”
The report explains that if any of Manafort’s guilty pleas are cancelled out, prosecutors will have the right to charge him of other crimes he admitted to while negotiating the deal.
Osler argues that portions of the deal were put in place to stop “legitimate routes a defendant should be able to use to raise potential unfairness.”
“It does appear this document was created with clemency in mind,” Osler continued. “If this plays out … and later we get a pardon of some kind, we’re going to have a lot of questions of first impression, I think. Then, we’re going to be in the courts on this and it’ll be fascinating.”
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said “The president could make a pardon as sweeping as the president chose to, as long as it doesn’t apply to prospective crimes.” McCarthy added that it’s clear that prosecutors were preparing for a potential clemency action from Trump.
“I have no doubt that they were thinking about that as they were going through it,” McCarthy said. “If they’re going to do this, they have every reason to do it and justify it, but be honest about it,” he said, adding that he saw several “potential time bombs seeded” into the deal.