After a jury returned guilty verdicts against Paul Manafort on eight counts stemming from the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday afternoon, the immediate question for many was whether the president will take the provocative step of pardoning his former campaign chairman.
According to NBC News, the federal jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on "eight counts involving bank and tax fraud" though "no verdicts could be reached on the 10 other charges he faced."
To put it mildly, with his former personal attorney Michael Cohen also pleading guilty in a New York court room, it is not a good day for President Trump.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) August 21, 2018
But even as the breaking news of the developments was blinking red on television screens and smartphones nationwide, the question about whether Trump might possibly pardon Manafort was quick to surface.
In the wake of Manafort's guilty verdicts, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that any attempt by Trump to pardon Manafort "would be a gross abuse of power," one that would require immediate congressional response.
Any attempt by the President to pardon Mr. Manafort or interfere in the investigation into his campaign would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 21, 2018
As they have previously, progressives groups announced that any move by Trump to undermine the rule of law or thwart the Mueller probe would result in massive street protests:
If Trump pardons Paul Manafort, 350,000 Americans in more than 900 cities are ready to take to the streets to assert that nobody is above the law.
Sign up to find a rapid response protest near you, or organize your own: https://t.co/gXgUYMfs6v pic.twitter.com/iUy1L91afS
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— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) August 21, 2018
Just last Friday, Trump told reporters that it was "very sad" what was happening to Manafort, who the president called a "very good person."
Never forget, the news can always get more ridiculous https://t.co/H7MQYwjMfB
— Vox (@voxdotcom) August 21, 2018
*unless Trump pardons Manafort https://t.co/2zYcLhTnhI
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 21, 2018
A statement issued by legal experts at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) over the weekend, Trump's exposure will not easily be solved—and could easily by made worse—with his pardon powers. According to CREW, which also published this legal paper on the issue earlier this year, there are serious barriers to trying to pardon Manafort, Cohen, or anyone within his close orbit who find themselves entangled in legal troubles.
Asked by @PeterAlexander if he would pardon Paul Manafort, President Trump says “I don’t talk about that now,” and asserts that Manafort, who worked for the Trump campaign for 5 months, “worked for me for a very short time” and “he happens to be a very good person.” pic.twitter.com/A2mzJEI4tU
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 17, 2018
"Such a pardon strategy, however tempting it might appear to the president, is fatally flawed," CREW warned. "There are two simple reasons for that. First, receiving a federal pardon will not protect key defendants from exposure to state criminal prosecution (as well as state and federal civil liability). In addition, granting a pardon with corrupt intent or for the purpose of interfering or preventing witness testimony could well expose President Trump to impeachment and personal criminal liability for obstruction of justice or bribery. In other words, pardoning key defendants will only complicate, not resolve, President Trump’s legal predicaments."