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Then candidate Donald Trump standing next to his then campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 Republican National Convention. On Tuesday, Manafort was found guilty of 8 charges on tax and bank fraud. (Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images)

After Guilty Verdicts Declared, Senator Warns Trump Any Attempt to Pardon Manafort 'Would Be Gross Abuse of Power'

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that such a move would trigger immediate congressional response 

Jon Queally

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.

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.

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:

Just last Friday, Trump told reporters that it was "very sad" what was happening to Manafort, who the president called a "very good person."

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. 

"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."

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