Donald Trump can’t pardon his way out of the Michael Cohen plea deal

Today it’s been widely reported that Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen has begun the process of cutting a plea deal against Trump. While we wait for a deal to be formally announced, the mainstream media has predictably begun talking about Trump pardoning Cohen. This has prompted widespread debates across social media about whether the pardon will happen. This raises the question: why are we still wasting time on this irrelevant topic?

Donald Trump cannot pardon his way out of the Trump-Russia scandal. If he tried to pardon any of his alleged co-conspirators, it would be challenged, and the Supreme Court would likely strike down any such pardon as an illegal attempt at obstructing justice. Even if the pardon did stand, Trump’s co-conspirators would still be nailed on state level charges, which Trump can’t pardon, so nothing would change.

Even in the extraordinarily unlikely event that Trump managed to pardon someone like Michael Cohen, and then Cohen somehow managed to get himself off the hook at the state level as well, Cohen would then be facing no legal jeopardy at all – and he’d be required to testify against Trump. You can only plead the Fifth to protect yourself from criminal prosecution, not to protect someone else. So if Trump tried to pardon any of these people, at best it would do him no good whatsoever, and at worst it would directly harm him.

Donald Trump seems to understand this. It’s why Trump didn’t bother trying to pardon Michael Flynn before he cut a deal and testified against Trump. Some have argued that Michael Cohen is closer to Trump and is therefore more likely to be pardoned. That doesn’t matter. Trump can’t get Cohen off the hook on the boatload of state charges he’ll face in New York, so a federal pardon wouldn’t help Cohen at all, and it wouldn’t help Trump either.

Trump already signaled that he understands this. It’s why he hasn’t bothered trying to pardon anyone in the Trump-Russia scandal. It would be roughly as effective as throwing eggs at a brick wall. Even if Trump panics and does try to pardon Michael Cohen, it won’t change the equation one bit; it would be an empty gesture.

Trump-Russia pardons are an irrelevant conversation. They have been all along. Yet the mainstream media makes us go through this every time yet another of Donald Trump’s people prepares to flip on him. These are the same news outlets that have spent the past year trying to convince us that Trump is going to fire Robert Mueller any minute. These are merely ratings-friendly narratives designed to scare you into staying tuned in.

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report