White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani suggested Sunday that President Donald Trump might pardon his former campaign manager Paul Manafort if he is convicted – but only after special counsel Robert Mueller III has completed his investigation.
“When it’s over, hey, he’s the president of the United States, he retains his pardon power, nobody’s taking that away from him,” Giuliani said on CNN when asked whether Trump would pardon Manafort should he be convicted. “I couldn’t and I don’t want to take any prerogatives away from him.”
But Giuliani stressed that Trump has not issued, would not issue and should not issue any pardons related to the Mueller probe while it is still ongoing, so as not to give the appearance that he has anything to hide.
“The president has not issued pardons in this investigation. The president is not going to issue pardons in this investigation, and my advice to him as long as I am his lawyer is not to do it because you just cloud what is becoming now a very clear picture of an extremely unfair investigation with no criminality involved of any kind,” Giuliani said.
Manafort was jailed last week over charges that he attempted to tamper with witnesses related to his pending trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges. Trump reacted by playing down Manafort’s role in his campaign.
But the president has issued several pardons in recent weeks, which some have interpreted as a signal to affiliates being targeted by Mueller’s probe not to cooperate with the investigation.
Even members of the president’s party have urged him to stop talking about pardons.
“I think it would be more helpful if the president never mentioned the word ‘pardon’ again with respect to the investigation,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Sunday on CBS.
Giuliani pushed back Sunday on the notion that in discussing his pardon power, the president had been suggesting doing anything untoward.
“You’re not going to get a pardon just because you’re involved in this investigation – you probably have a higher burden if you’re involved in this investigation compared to the others who get pardoned,” he said. “But you’re certainly not excluded from it if the president and his advisers, not me, come to the conclusion that you’ve been treated unfairly.”
Giuliani said he would not be advising Trump on pardons, noting, “I shouldn’t be involved in that process because I’m probably too rooted in his defense.”
But he did accuse the Mueller investigation – yet again – of being “political” and rife with “unfairness,” perhaps unfair enough to merit pardons for those who get caught by it.
“Going back to Nixon, Ford … even Bush and Clinton … these pardons happened in these political investigations,” Giuliani said. “That means they’re going to happen here; doesn’t mean anyone should rely on it.
“But there is a lot of unfairness out there,” he continued. “We don’t know the full scope of it.”
The president weighed in Sunday on Twitter with his opinion of the Mueller probe, again calling it a “WITCH HUNT!” and declaring that law enforcement officials had a “Double Standard!” in their investigations of him and Hillary Clinton.
“There was no Russian Collusion. Oh, I see, there was no Russian Collusion, so now they look for obstruction on the no Russian Collusion,” Trump wrote. “The phony Russian Collusion was a made-up Hoax. Too bad they didn’t look at Crooked Hillary like this.”
Trump has not yet spoken to Mueller as part of the probe, and Giuliani suggested Sunday that he should not do so under oath – pointing to Trump’s recent backpedaling on how he characterized his son Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer as evidence of why it’s hard to sort out “a lot of different recollections.”
“That’s why you don’t want to go under oath,” Giuliani said.
Appearing on CBS, Giuliani said Trump’s legal team nonetheless owed it to him to “sort through” the options of how an interview with Mueller could proceed, because “the president wants to do it.”
He stressed that the Trump team was not trying to delay an interview but that the president had had other priorities – namely, the North Korea summit.
“I couldn’t possibly justify troubling the president when he was working on peace with North Korea,” Giuliani said, accusing the Mueller team of being “responsible for three months of delays.”
Giuliani added that Trump’s legal team would try to limit any interview with Mueller “to some specific questions about the heart of the probe” that they think “could be answered quickly” – in about three hours, he said.
But he added that he “couldn’t possibly” agree to an interview with Mueller “until we know how badly this investigation” was affected by bias among FBI agents castigated in the recently released inspector general’s report.
Giuliani also called on the Justice Department to investigate the Mueller probe, “not because of Mueller but because of its genesis,” he said, referring to a report the inspector general put out last week on the FBI’s Clinton email probe. Several officials who worked on the Clinton probe also worked on the bureau’s Russia investigation, but the report found no evidence that political leanings affected any decisions made during the Clinton probe.
Yet the report did accuse five FBI officials, including former top counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, of exhibiting anti-Trump bias and former FBI director James Comey of insubordination and poor judgment.
“We want the Mueller probe to be investigated the way the Trump investigation’s been investigated, and we’d like to see a report with the conclusions,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani added that he thought certain FBI officials should be fired for “taking bribes” from journalists in exchange for information – though he acknowledged that there is nothing in the inspector general’s report that accuses FBI agents of taking bribes.
The inspector general’s report said it would continue investigating FBI officials who received tickets to sporting games and other things of value from reporters.