For the virtual entirety of the Robert Mueller-led special counsel probe, a running subplot in the media coverage involved speculation about whether President Donald Trump would issue presidential pardons for former associates of his who were targeted by Mueller’s prosecutors.
Now that Mueller’s investigation has concluded, questions about pardons and commutations of prison sentences have been raised once again, but Trump has yet to issue a definitive answer one way or another as he claimed to have not really considered it just yet.
Deliberations yet to come
The Hill reported that the president was asked by a reporter on Monday in the Oval Office whether he planned to issue pardons for any of those who had pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes during the Mueller probe.
Trump simply replied, “Haven’t thought about it.”
Just the day before, in the wake of the release of a summary of Mueller’s findings that exonerated him of alleged collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice, Trump lamented how “so many people have been so badly hurt” in the process of being swept up in Mueller’s investigation.
No talks held
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was also asked about potential presidential pardons on Monday, and replied similarly that she was unaware of any discussions in that regard at that point.
“There’s no discussion of that taking place at this point,” Sanders said, and when asked again, repeated, “No discussion that I’m aware of on any pardons at this point.”
Sanders’ remarks were in response to questions pertaining specifically to the possibility of pardons for Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
Despite the constant rumble in the media throughout the investigation about the issuance of presidential pardons, it had been made clear by Trump’s legal team that he was repeatedly advised not to make any such grants, or even hint at such action, until after the investigation had concluded, primarily to avoid claims that his acts of clemency impeded or obstructed the investigative process.
Were Trump to eventually issue any pardons related to the Mueller investigation, the most likely candidates to receive them would be former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who was charged with lying to the FBI, as well as longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, who was also charged with making false statements, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
Though less likely to receive a pardon, but perhaps in line for a commutation of his lengthy prison sentence, is former 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is facing numerous years behind bars for unrelated convictions on a variety of financial crimes that occurred prior to his involvement with Trump.
There are other individuals who were caught up in Mueller’s probe who could stand to benefit from presidential clemency, but at least as of yet, it is unclear who, if anybody, will receive an executive extension of grace.