Now that there are widespread reports about Paul Manafort negotiating a plea deal, a number of political pundits are using it as an excuse to push the narrative that Donald Trump is going to magically pardon his way out of his criminal scandals. Of course these are the pundits who start pushing their ratings-friendly “magic pardons” narrative whenever anything happens. But in reality, Manafort’s plea deal negotiations make more clear than ever that pardons were never a part of the Trump-Russia conversation – and this also reveals the defining truth about Donald Trump and his people.
What do Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Cohen all have in common? They all got busted for Trump-related crimes. They each rejected the notion that Donald Trump was going to save them with magic pardons, and they instead cut plea deals. These are the people who know Trump best. They all worked under him. Cohen worked under him for decades. And they all concluded that their best bet was to agree to a shortened prison sentence, rather than counting on Trump to save them.
If Paul Manafort does indeed finalize a plea deal, it’ll mean that every single Donald Trump underling who’s been indicted has ultimately decided not to even bother waiting around for Trump’s magic pardons. That’s because they know that no such pardons are coming. Many legal experts think the courts would shoot down an attempted pardon of an alleged co-conspirator. Most of them would have faced parallel state level charges, which Trump can’t pardon. And if they ever did reach a point where they were no longer facing any criminal jeopardy, they’d have been required to testify against him.
Donald Trump would gain literally nothing by pardoning his own people, and he might end up harming his own legal position in the process. Trump has become so erratic that, for all we know, he might randomly decide to start trying to pardon these people. But Trump’s underlings know him best. And when faced with one of the defining decisions of their lives, they’ve concluded that either Trump isn’t even going to try to pardon them, or that Trump won’t be able to pull it off if he tries.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report