News & Politics

Mueller Views Trump's 'Dangling Pardons' as Potential Obstruction of Justice, Legal Analyst Says

The president is talking about pardons an awful lot in recent days. There may be a reason for that.

Photo Credit: MSNBC screenshot

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Donald Trump's recent efforts to exercise his pardon power as a part of his potential intention to obstruct justice, according to former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman.

Litman made argued that Mueller could consider Trump's use of pardons as a subject of his inquiry on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House" with Nicolle Wallace on Monday.

"The indications are that [Mueller] is going to be giving a report that will have four different 'counts,' as it were, of potential obstruction," Litman said. "There's the Air Force One incident, there's the firing of Comey, there's the pressuring of Sessions. And the fourth is this dangling of pardons."

In recent weeks, Trump pardoned Bush administration official Scoot Libby for his crimes of lying to the FBI. He also recently suggested he would pardon Jack Johnson, a famous black boxer who was convicted more than a century ago of accompanying a white woman across state lines. Many have interpreted these uses of the pardon power may be intended to send a signal to Trump's associates, including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen that he can pardon them so that they don't need to cooperate with the special counsel. 

"Although he's got a lot of power to use pardons, it's a different thing to sort of dangle them, quietly, on the QT, saying 'Just keep quiet, and there'll be a pardon at the end of the day,'" Litman said. "That subverts the whole notion of pardons. It doesn't give rise to the one check we have, which is the sort of public airing of them. And that potentially could be obstruction, and Mueller is taking that as one of his subject matters."

Watch the clip below:

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.