Top Trump lawyer floated idea of pardoning Flynn, Manafort: report

An attorney for President Donald Trump last year raised the idea of the president pardoning his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort in discussions with their lawyers, according to The New York Times.

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The idea was brought up by attorney John Dowd, who at the time served as head of Trump’s legal team. Dowd resigned abruptly last week amid disagreements with the president over how to respond to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign and its possible ties to Trump and Trump campaign officials.

>> Related: Attorney representing Trump in Russia probe resigns

Dowd discussed the idea of pardoning Manafort with the lobbyist's lawyer before a grand jury indicted him and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates on charges connected to consulting work they did in Ukraine, the Times reported.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty. Gates pleaded guilty in February to making false statements to federal investigators and conspiring against the United States.

>> Related: Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

The Times reported that Manafort has "told others he is not interested in a pardon because he believes he has done nothing wrong and the government overstepped its authority."

Dowd raised the idea of a presidential pardon with Flynn's attorney sometime after last summer, according to the Times. He pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

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According to the Times, Dowd told at least one confidant that he wasn't sure why Flynn had accepted a plea and that he told Flynn's attorney that "the president had long believed that the case against Mr. Flynn was flimsy."

Dowd denied discussing possible presidential pardons with attorneys for Manafort and Flynn in a phone interview with The Washington Post.

“I had no such discussions with them,” Dowd told the newspaper. “We never talked about pardons. There was no reason to talk about pardons.”

>> Related: Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?

White House lawyer Ty Cobb said in a statement to the Times that he has only ever been asked about pardons by members of the media.

“(I) have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House,” he said.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, declined Wednesday to add to Cobb’s statement.

“I can say that Ty Cobb is the person that would be most directly involved in this and he’s got a statement on the record saying that there’s no discussion and there’s no consideration of those this time at the White House,” Huckabee Sanders said at a news briefing.

Last month, Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals and three organizations on charges of interfering in the election. Three of Trump's associates -- Flynn, Gates and campaign aide George Papadopoulos -- have pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate with authorities. Attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan also pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI about his last contact with Gates.

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