Manafort bets on presidential pardon in special counsel case

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill on June 21

The White House has denied a report claiming that a lawyer for President Trump raised the prospect of pardoning former advisers Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort as the Federal Bureau of Investigation special counsel was building cases against them.

The New York Times said that John Dowd - who quit the Trump legal team last week - had suggested that the president could use his powers to pardon Mike Flynn, the disgraced national security adviser, and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chair.

The Times reported that Robert Kelner, whom the newspaper identifies as Flynn's lawyer, and Reginald Brown, Manafort's attorney at the time, declined to comment on the report.

Trump's lawyers Jay Sekulow and Ty Cobb also denied to the Times that they had been involved in any talks about pardons.

"As I said, an on-record statement from the president's attorney, here at the White House, on these matters has said there's no discussion or consideration of this", Sanders said.

Three sources say that Mueller's team is now looking at the possibility that Dowd made pardon offers to both former Trump advisers a year ago because the president's team was concerned about what they might say if they struck a deal with the special counsel.

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, leaves his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C., on December 1, 2017.

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Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, has pleaded not guilty.

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates was in contact just before the 2016 election with a man he knew to be a former Russian spy, according to a document filed by special counsel Robert Mueller's office on Tuesday. In a statement to the Times, Dowd denied the report. "Period", he said, according to the Times.

These new details were revealed in a court filing about the upcoming sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who worked with Gates and Manafort. And when she was asked if Trump directed Dowd to float pardons to Flynn's and Manafort's lawyers in exchange for them not cutting a deal with Mueller, she did not completely rule it out: "I'm not aware of any conversations like that at all".

"I don't want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet", Trump said in December.

Legal experts said prosecutors could view the dangle of a presidential pardon to people under investigation as a criminal effort to obstruct justice. They told the Times that the president asked about the extent of his power and had a lawyer further explain his powers to him.

It supposedly raises questions about whether Dowd was offering pardons to influence their actions in the investigation.

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