Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Donald Trump himself may soon find out that there’s a down side to presidential pardons.
For the criminals, accepting a pardon also is an admission of guilt. That’s actually the real reason that President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his Watergate-related crimes – to get him to admit that what he did was a crime.
The pardon also strips recipients of their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. According to Andrew Weissman, the lead prosecutor in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Trump’s cronies could be forced to testify in front of a grand jury about the Trump campaign.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Weissman said, “You cannot be pardoned for future crimes and each of those people, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, has evidence in their head. They have information that a grand jury could seek, they can all be given grand jury subpoenas, required to testify in the grand jury.
“If they then lie before the grand jury, which is a new crime, and that happens after January 20th, there is no President Trump at that point to, you know, give them a get out of jail free card, and so all of this effort by the president to shield, you know, his friends and allies and, you know, potential conspirators will be for naught, because all of these people can be in that trick box of being put before the grand jury where they either have to tell the truth or they risk being prosecuted for a new crime of perjury and obstruction of justice.”
For Trump, there also could be legal ramifications, says Weissman. The Mueller investigation found proof that Trump had obstructed justice by promising pardons to Manafort and Stone in exchange for their refusal to cooperate in that probe. A sitting president cannot be prosecuted under Justice Department policy, but on Jan. 20, 2021, that shield goes away.
“What we saw yesterday essentially was the president carrying out the last act of an obstruction of justice,” he said. “Can the president be prosecuted for that? The answer is yes.”
You can watch Weissman’s entire interview here, courtesy of MSNBC.