Although the president’s team would like to pretend as though Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump team will be over soon, there is no real indication that it actually will be. If the president personally really is innocent, then he just has no idea how to actually maintain an appearance of innocence. Instead, he continuously freaks out about the Russia investigation being a “witch hunt,” when it is most certainly not.
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He has, in the past, suggested that his pardon power, as president, supersedes any issue that could arise from the Russia investigation; it’s one of the many ways that Trump has tried to undercut the significance of the Russia investigation.
However, as former federal prosecutor and candidate for Illinois state attorney general Renato Mariotti explains, a development in the Russia investigation reported upon by The New York Times means that the president’s pardon power, as it relates to the Russia investigation, may be significantly limited.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that lawyers for disgraced national security adviser and retired General Michael Flynn had told laywers for President Trump that they would no longer be sharing information regarding the Russia investigation. This development indicates that Flynn is likely cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller’s team and is either preparing to plead guilty or has already done so. Thus, Flynn’s team can not still be considered to be on the president’s side.
As Mariotti explains, this is a bad development for the Trump team all around. For one, communications between lawyers representing interests on the same side of a case are often crucial for defense lawyers in crafting their defense. Federal prosecutors often work to keep their lines of reasoning and investigation concealed, so every bit of information lawyers garner from interactions with prosecutors in any capacity is crucial.
Losing a stream of information isn’t the only negative in this newest development for the Trump team, however. As Mariotti also explains, Flynn effectively seeming to switch sides means that the president is likely now constrained in his pardon power. Flynn, according to Mariotti, likely no longer believes that being pardoned is an option for him; if Trump was to go that route, Special Counsel Mueller could likely use that as evidence of obstruction of justice on the president’s part.
As Mariotti explains:
‘According to Comey, Trump told him that Flynn “is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” If Flynn thinks HE won’t get a pardon, after Trump made that request on his behalf, why does Manafort think he’ll get one? (One answer could be that a pardon of Flynn could be used by Mueller as evidence of Trump’s “corrupt intent” to prove obstruction, because it could indicate Trump’s strong desire to relieve Flynn of criminal liability. A Manafort pardon wouldn’t impact an obstruction case.)’
It’s those reported comments of Trump’s to Comey about Flynn that form the basis of the allegation that he’s guilty of obstruction of justice.
Trump has, unsurprisingly, denied the allegations.
As Mariotti finished his thread about Flynn seeming to “flip” by saying, there’s one last reason why the development is bad for the Trump team — Flynn is likely, if he’s agreed to cooperate, to be pressed on a whole host of other issues. This includes, no doubt, the question of whether or not the president personally has committed a crime in all of this.
Trump’s months of insistence that his team is innocent gets proved wrong in a new way over and over again, it seems like.