White House: No pardons under consideration for Manafort, Flynn

Both Gates and the lawyer, Alexander van der Zwaan, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller in his investigation of Russian meddling in the election.

As rumors fly about President Donald Trump's possible plans to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, recently departed Trump defense lawyer John Dowd is taking pains to praise Mueller and his investigation.

She also referred reporters to a statement by Ty Cobb, an attorney hired by Trump to lead the White House's response to the Mueller probe.

Sanders was asked several times during the White House press briefing about discussions of pardons.

"The talks suggest that Mr. Trump's lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency", the Times story read.

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Flynn, who briefly served as Trump's national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December to one count of "willfully and knowingly" making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding his his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.

Manafort has been indicted by two grand juries as part of the Mueller investigation for foreign lobbying work, bank fraud and other business he conducted prior to his time leading the Trump campaign.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges in two indictments filed by Mueller's office.

Dowd, who resigned from President Trump's legal team last Thursday, told the Times that, as far as he knew, "there were no discussions" about pardoning Flynn or Manafort. The ex-GRU agent, identified as Person A, maintained contacts with Russian intelligence at the time of his interactions with Gates, according to the filing.

But it's very unlikely that the DOJ Pardon Attorney's office would play a role in any decision to issue a pardon besides creating a formal record after the fact, unless Trump wanted the advice.

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"The president's power to pardon is absolute and not subject to review even if he does it for political reasons", said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Department of Justice.

Hours later, Flynn's brother posted a new tweet saying, "Mr. President, I personally believe that a pardon is due to General Flynn, given the apparent and obvious illegitimacy of the manner in which the so called "crimes" he plead (sic) guilty to were extracted from him".

Raising such a possibility could be viewed as an incentive for witnesses not to cooperate with investigators.

"Last time I checked, the pardon power is official, not personal", Wright said.

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