One of the main concerns I have heard expressed by Democrats is that President Trump will just pardon his way out of any legal mess he and his campaign may find themselves in, related to the current Russia probe. This is of course a very valid concern considering the fact that the President of the United States does in fact have far-reaching pardon powers within the federal court system. One go-around we have heard discussed would be the indictment of individuals on State charges rather than Federal charges, in order to prevent any possible pardon. While up until this point, such a strategy by prosecutors has only been rumored to be taking place, news breaking this afternoon from Reuters is likely sending shockwaves throughout Trump’s circles.
According to two separate sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity to Reuters, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is investigating Paul Manafort for potential money laundering charges. This investigation is said to be in collaboration with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s own federal investigation into Manafort and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, are investigating and probing specific real estate deals by Manafort in their jurisdiction. Additionally, these two sources have both claimed that the main aim for this investigation on the state level is to convince Manafort to flip on others involved in Mueller’s investigation and begin cooperating with the probe into Russian election collusion.
By launching a separate investigation outside of a pardonable jurisdiction, the NY Attorney General is clearly trying to intimidate Manafort as he can no longer rely on an expected pardon by the President. Usually prosecutors and investigators would not try such tactics unless they were almost certain that Manafort had information which could lead to the indictment of individuals higher up on the totem pole. There aren’t many people higher up than Manafort, so it’s quite easy to speculate on who these potential targets may be.
It is also rather alarming that President Trump has personally interviewed individuals as replacements for the dozens of U.S. attorneys he fired earlier in the year. This includes individuals who could take over the U.S. attorney position in the district of Manhattan. Note that any such appointment would have to clear hurdles in the Senate first.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this breaking story in the comments section below.