Today it was revealed that Donald Trump dangled pardons in front of the faces of unnamed Trump-Russia grand jury witnesses, and that Special Counsel Robert Mueller considers those offers to have been obstruction of justice. Here’s what’s remarkable about the story. It was already reported last month that Trump dangled pardons in front of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort – but they can’t be the unnamed individuals in question.
Trump had his former attorney John Dowd offer pardons to Manafort and Flynn, in an attempt at preventing them from cutting plea deals. But Manafort, who has been fully uncooperative and is awaiting trial, certainly never testified before a grand jury. And even if Flynn has testified before grand juries since cutting his plea deal, he would have kept that so secret as part of his deal, Trump never would have found out about it. Instead, these newly reported pardon offers – as reported by NBC News today – had to have involved people whom Trump knew were testifying for Trump-Russia grand juries.
That’s an admittedly long list. For instance, Sam Nunberg announced on CNN and MSNBC that he had been subpoenaed to testify before a Robert Mueller grand jury a few days before he ended up testifying. In another example, while Sam Clovis was testifying before a Mueller grand jury, the media reported that it was happening. Other people who are friendly to Trump may have told him privately that they’d been subpoenaed to testify.
So for now we don’t have any real way of knowing the identities of the grand jury witnesses who were offered pardons by Donald Trump. That’ll all come out in the end. The big story for now is this: Trump didn’t actually pardon these people, which means they presumably went ahead and testified against him. And the even bigger story is this: Robert Mueller is pursuing these would-be pardons as criminal acts of obstruction of justice on Trump’s part.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report