Democrats are increasingly expressing worries that President Trump may seek to pardon allies convicted or charged in investigations of his campaign and administration in the wake of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s sentencing.
Worries about Trump pardons have long been bandied about by critics of his administration, but the chatter is on the rise in recent weeks.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) signaled Thursday that his panel is interested in whether Trump is dangling pardons to witnesses tied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or to the Southern District of New York, which is probing payments made to two women alleging affairs with Trump.
The chatter also comes as questions have been raised over whether former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was approached by the president’s legal team with an offer suggesting the president would grant him a pardon following the FBI’s raid last year of his house and office.
“We’ve seen the president dangle pardons publicly really through much of the course of the investigation,” Schiff told The Hill and CNN.
“We are obviously are deeply interested in all the documents that Mr. Cohen produced and others that we’ve been able to obtain. We would be looking to corroborate the evidence we received and this is very much indeed a big interest of ours,” he added.
Schiff isn’t alone in raising the concern.
“I think if the president pardons people who we are talking about, it is an element of obstruction,” Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Hill.
Quigley said he believes Trump is signaling plans to issue a pardon because he made similar comments when he pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“Why do I worry about it? Because before he pardoned others like Libby and Sheriff Arpaio, he’s saying the same sorts of things he said then — that he was about to pardon. He’s saying the same things now,” Quigley said.
Asked this week whether he would offer Manafort a pardon, Trump responded that he felt “very badly” for his former campaign chairman but did not answer the question directly.
Trump has publicly said he believes he has the right to issue extensive pardons, stating on Twitter last summer that he even has the “absolute right” to pardon himself.
Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, also has suggested Trump could issue pardons after the Mueller probe concludes.
“When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons,” Giuliani, a former New York mayor, told the New York Daily News last year.