Are Trump’s Associates Forgoing Lawyers because They Expect Pardons?

One of the numerous topics over which Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked non-executive executive privilege when he testified earlier this month was whether the Trump Administration has started discussing pardoning those who might be criminally exposed for their ties with Russia.

WARNER: To your knowledge, have any Department of Justice officials been involved with conversations about any possibility of presidential pardons about any of the individuals involved with the Russia investigation?

SESSIONS: Mr. Chairman, I’m not able to comment on conversations with high officials within the white house. That would be a violation of the communications rule that I have to —

WARNER: Just so I can understand, is the basis of that unwilling to answer based on executive privilege?

SESSIONS: It’s a long standing policy. The department of justice not to comment on conversations that the attorney general had with the president of the united States for confidential reasons that rounded in the coequal branch.

WARNER: Just so I understand, is that mean you claim executive privilege?

SESSIONS: I’m not claiming executive privilege because that’s the president’s power and I have no power there.

WARNER: What about conversations with other Department of Justice or White House officials about potential pardons? Not the president, sir.

SESSIONS: Without in any way suggesting I had any conversations concerning pardons, totally apart from that, there are privileges of communication within the department of justice that we share all of us do. We have a right to have full and robust debate within the Department of Justice and encourage people to speak up and argue cases on different sides. Those arguments are not — historically we have seen they shouldn’t be revealed.

WARNER: I hope you agree since you recused yourself that if the president or others would pardon someone during the midst of this investigation while our investigation or Mr. Mueller’s investigation, that would be problematic.

After I watched this testimony I predicted Trump would pardon someone — probably Mike Flynn — within three months of the day I made the prediction (which was roughly June 14).

I said that, in part, because of Sessions’ sheer arrogance when he was providing obviously false answers (most especially to Kamala Harris). Sessions had the giddy look of someone who knew he’d get away with whatever he was pulling, even beyond the kind of a look you’d expect from a southern white man talking to a woman of color.

But I also say that because some of the people most exposed in this affair have had at least initial conversations with the FBI without a lawyer. That’s true of Mike Flynn in his first interview with the FBI at the White House. (Flynn has since retained Robert Kelner.)

WHITEHOUSE: Do you know where that interview took place or under what circumstances?

YATES: I believe it took place at the White House.

WHITEHOUSE: The Flynn interview?


WHITEHOUSE: OK. Do you know if Flynn was represented by council at the time?

YATES: I don’t believe he was.

And — according to a new WaPo story — that’s true of the 10 hours of questioning that Carter Page underwent in March.

Over a series of five meetings in March, totaling about 10 hours of questioning, Page repeatedly denied wrongdoing when asked about allegations that he may have acted as a kind of go-between for Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with Page’s account.

The interviews with the FBI are the most extensive known questioning of a potential suspect in the probe of possible Russian connections to associates of President Trump. The questioning of Page came more than a month before the Russian investigation was put under the direction of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Page confirmed Monday that the interviews occurred, calling them “extensive discussions.” He declined to say if he’s spoken to investigators since the March interviews.


Because it is against the law for an individual to lie to FBI agents about a material issue under investigation, many lawyers recommend their clients not sit for interviews with the bureau without a lawyer present. Page said he spoke without a lawyer and wasn’t concerned about the risks because he told the truth.

Now, it may be that after getting these men to incriminate themselves, the FBI encouraged them to lawyer up so they could be flipped. Certainly, Sheldon Whitehouse appears to believe Flynn has done just that.

Still, the kind of arrogance that would lead men as exposed as they are to forgo a lawyer makes me wonder whether they’ve already been promised pardons?

Update: Meanwhile, the most likely Trump associate to get a pardon, father of his grandchildren Jared Kushner, just hired Abbe Lowell, while still retaining Jamie Gorelick.

19 replies
  1. teacherken says:

    and if promised pardons ahead of testifying, would not that itself be evidence of obstruction of justice?

  2. John Casper says:

    Thank you.

    With pardons in hand, as long as they testify truthfully before Congress, they have nothing to fear.

    • Peterr says:

      Which leads me to think that if Trump only listened to his WH counsel once, it was when he said “If you give them a pardon, they can’t keep quiet by pleading the Fifth Amendment.”

  3. Peterr says:

    If I might propose an alternative hypothesis, consider these two principles of TrumpWorld. First is the possibility that in Trump’s eye, a pardon is a sign of failure and weakness rather than a tool like bankruptcy protection to preserve assets and force a deal. Thus, if you need a pardon, Trump will see you as a loser and thus you don’t get one. Second is the supreme arrogance not just of Trump but of most/all of his inner circle. Flynn in particular seems a likely candidate for this. I can easily see him saying to folks ahead of that first FBI interview, “Obama & Co forced me out of the military, but look who’s laughing now! I’m the National $^@%# Security Advisor. I don’t need no stinkin’ lawyer.”

    • Peterr says:

      OTOH, there is also the Blago Principle to be considered. A pardon is an asset, and someone who needs a pardon can be rather desperate to . . . ahem . . . demonstrate their gratitude. As Blago himself said, into a well-placed FBI microphone, “I’ve got this thing and it’s f—ing golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f—in’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it.”

      Blago was definitely speaking Trump’s language here.


  4. Gary Porch says:

    Pardons apply only to federal crimes. They do not apply to state crimes, such as state treason, or to civil crimes, including Civil Rico with its treble damages. You can lose everything in a state rico claim involving say, money laundering–treble damages as well as the property.

      • bmaz says:

        There is not. That comment is batshit. Also, if it is “civil”, it is not a “crime”. And another thing, anytime anybody blithely cites “RICO” at you, assume they are a freaking crackpot unless they are a pretty experienced lawyer. Any other citation of RICO! is for crackpots.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A sword without a handle.  As with Libby, once pardoned, Trump associates would have no ability legitimately to plead the 5th as a defense to divulging what they know.  That could put Trump or other associates on the hook if Mueller were allowed to investigate further.

    Trump seems two-dimensional in his thinking, which should aid investigators.  But he is crude, relentless and utterly ruthless.  Jared, for example, might get a pardon because he could implicate Donaldo rather than for family reasons.  Donald has a reputation for throwing people under the bus and he consistently refuses to listen to reason.  His associates ought not to count their pardons before they’re hatched.

    • John Casper says:

      Thank you for mentioning Scooter. Apologies for leaving out in my previous reply that–as you and most here already know–a big hurdle is that we need Congress to have the guts to invite testimony from those receiving pardons. AFAIK, if they don’t testify, because they face no legal jeopardy, Congress can hold them in contempt.

      If and when D’s ever control either House, hope they’ll c̶o̶m̶p̶e̶l̶ invite Scooter in for a chat in open session.

  6. martin says:

    Still, the kind of arrogance that would lead men as exposed as they are to forgo a lawyer makes me wonder whether they’ve already been promised pardons?


    Shades of sibling rivalry..  “..go ahead and tell Dad I slapped you.. Mom likes me best so she’ll pardon me. And then slap you silly.. hahahahahahaha!  Na na na.. na na!

  7. greengiant says:

    Fantasy land,  similar to the bi partisan hubris of congress people thinking they can sell out the people through middlemen lobbyists and then congregate in a park without security.   Now that there are security details there maybe some who will actually ponder why they are necessary.  It runs deep when you see the POTUS surrounded by ex FBI and ex NYPD on the POTUS personal payroll.

    Fiction or not? a coup taking advantage of  cyber warfare to take out private and main stream media.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Not likely. One is relatively easy but it would make no sense from propaganda standpoint.
      The other is more difficult and makes no sense from a loss of intel standpoint.

  8. Evangelista says:

    In a Constitutionally constituted United States your assertion, ” if it is “civil”, it is not a “crime”” would be technically correct. The two ‘native’, or ‘public law’ jurisdictions provided in the U.S. Constitution are separate and exclusive, “civil” jurisdiction being for resolving disputes arising from contracts, agreements, understandings, obligations, and “criminal” jurisdiction being for address to intentionally perpetrated willful malicious actions, both requiring proofs, of failure in a civil case, of actual perpetration in a criminal case, for which, in a case where a breach of contract or agreement is asserted malicious, the breach, itself, would have to be proofed first, in a civil proceeding, before the issue could be carried to a criminal jurisdiction to determine if the breach proved had been willfully and maliciously perpetrated.

    Also, there would be no domestic RICO proceedings, since RICO is not civil, or criminal. The presumptions RICO incorporates, of guilt, in intending to do wrongs, along with the “civil penalties” RICO incorporates, and permits to be levied, and tripled to enhance the punishment, would preclude RICO from civil and criminal jurisdictions, and there is no Constitutionally provided combination, or presumption of guilt jurisdiction.

    There is only Admiralty, in which only federal courts are permitted to convene, because it is a foreign jurisdiction, proprietary to international commerce, and so parochial to international merchants, a class, who engage in international commerce. It is for Admiralty being a parochial jurisdiction that for a federal court to convene in it the issue brought must be proofed to involve international commerce and the United States based party or entity involved must be proofed engaged in international commerce (including shipping between nations). In a Constitutionally constituted United States RICO would have to be confined to foreign commerce situations.

    We do not, today, however, live in a Constitutionally constituted United States. Proof of this is at every hand, in all of the presumption of guilt based “law”, like RICO, being applied inside the United States, outside of commerce, in the courts treating the said presumption and such “law”, based on it, and members of the public of the United States as “legally” subject to alien jurisdiction, alien presumption, alien jurisdictional combination “law” and its presumption of innocence principle violating operation as if legal.

    We live today in a Commercial-Law constituted United States, where presumption of guilt is “tacitly recognized” by courts and judges and “civil penalties”, “civil impoundments”, “civil forfeitures” and so forth, all products of an also “tacitly recognized” “civil-crimes” law and commercial law patterned “civil-criminal” jurisdiction are the mainstays of a legal system alien to the United States Constitution, and to the presumption of innocence principle the U.S. Constitution, and the republican form of government the U.S. Constitution has the government that Constitution was constituted to form guarantee: [“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”].

    In this corrupted government, where the servants have usurped powers to make We the People subject to them RICO exists, and exists as a “law” for the government, not for the People. It is for this RICO is nearly impossible for the People to use; Except against the government that created it to advance and perptuate its corrupt racketeering operations and activities, but only if one can convince a court to side with the People, instead of the rulers in government…

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