President Trump asked his lawyers a few weeks ago for their advice on pardoning Paul Manafort and other aides accused of his crimes, his lawyer said Thursday.
The subject of pardoning Manafort came when Trump's former campaign chief saw several charges of bank fraud and tax evasion in an Alexandria criminal case, Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani said in an interview.
Trump's lawyers advised the president to recommend Giuliani to pardon anyone involved in investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and said Trump should at least wait until Special Adviser Robert S. Mueller III closed his investigation , Giuliani said the president agreed and did not push the issue further.
"He said yes," Giuliani said. "He agreed with us."
Giuliani said that Trump was seeking advice after a flood of pardons he had granted this summerincluding for a woman who had asked Kim Kardashian to the White House to publish, Giuliani said he and his personal attorney Jay Sekulov had advised him to wait and see if Mueller made a damning report accusing the president of blocking a federal investigation into the contacts of his campaign with Russians.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that she "had no knowledge of any discussions about Trump's pardon for Manafort" and the topic was "not something to discuss".
On Thursday, after Giuliani's comment, Sanders said the pardon issue was not actively discussed "in the White House".
"This pardon is not discussed in the White House, and the president has not made a decision to pardon Paul Manafort or anyone else," she said in a statement.
The exact timing of the pardon discussion is unclear.
A senior government official said the president had discussed the pros and cons of granting pardons to Manafort and others in connection with an investigation of his "a few weeks ago" campaign. Giuliani initially said that he and Trump had the conversation "three to five weeks ago". But later he corrected his statement to say that he thought they had discussed it several weeks earlier, in June.
Some experts have argued Trump may face more legal risk if he pardons the adversaries who are witnesses in the Mueller Trials because Müller investigates the President's conduct and attempts to obstruct the judiciary.
Giuliani recognized this risk.
"We put him down and said that you are not considering these other pardons with anyone involved in the investigation, because he said, I understand perfectly," said Giuliani. "The real concern is whether Mueller will pay any pardon Obstacle load. "
Other Trump executives guilty of Müller's investigation include former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, and Trump's campaigner Rick Gates.
Mueller's findings are to be made available to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein in a report that would then decide whether evidence of misconduct is sufficiently serious that it should be submitted to Congress for prosecution.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the administration's treatment of Manafort – a jury found guilty of tax and bank fraud in eight cases on Tuesday. Manafort refused to work with the investigators from Mueller to obtain information about the Trump campaign, and instead took his chance.
On Tuesday, the president told reporters that Manafort was a "good man" and that he felt sorry for him.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted his support for Manafort and criticized Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer pleaded guilty on Tuesday, for tax fraud in five cases, a false statement to a bank and two campaign campaign violations, and an excessive campaign contribution ,
"I feel very bad for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family," Trump tweeted. "& # 39; Justice & # 39; took, among other things, a 12-year-old tax case, put enormous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'invent' stories, invent one "Deal" to get brave man! "
Within the West Wing, the prospect of a pardon from Manafort meets almost universal resistance. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, White House Solicitor Donald F. McGahn and lawyer Emmet T. Flood are all against it. Helpers try to keep Trump from discussing the matter at all. After Ainsley Earhardt, the presenter of Fox News, said Wednesday evening that Trump had apologized while appearing on Fox News, Sanders asked her to clarify her comments that she was Trump, according to a person who was familiar with the matter, would not hear. The officials are increasingly frustrated by Giuliani in the west wing.
Trump admiringly said that Manafort did not "turn around" him and was effusive when Judge T. Ellis said the prosecution only wanted to go to Manafort to get him. Asked for a petition for clemency, a White House official said, "What does it do? You forgive him, the Mueller probe will not let go, it'll give you more headaches, he'll have another trial, you'll have more Republicans behind you are here. "
"Legally, he has the right to pardon Manafort," said Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard professor whom Trump likes to see on TV. "My advice to the President is not to tweet, do not forgive, do not testify, do not fire."
That was a big change for Trump, who described it as a "national disgrace" in April, when federal investigator Cohen's apartment and his office took part in an investigation into his efforts during the campaign to suppress embarrassing stories about Trump.
Cohen directly implicated Trump in some of his actions when he pleaded guilty on Tuesday and said he would pay out two women to publish their stories about alleged affairs with Trump before election day – in coordination with the then candidate.
Trump has repeatedly expressed his anger over how federal prosecutors have "beaten" and abused Manafort. The president's critics argue that Trump's public tweets are a barely concealed message to Manafort, that he supports his refusal to work with Mueller, and is willing to apologize to him in the future.
Giuliani said that Trump's concern for Manafort motivates him to consider a pardon.
"He feels that Manafort has been maltreated, nobody in such a case is attacked in solitary confinement in the middle of the night," Giuliani said. "They tried to crack him and it did not work. For the past two to three weeks, he has expressed anger and frustration over how he has been treated. "
Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.