Late last week, the Washington Post added an alarming twist to Donald Trump’s intensifying Russia scandal, reporting that the president has asked White House aides “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe.” Over the weekend, Trump didn’t explicitly confirm the story, but he made clear that the subject is very much on his mind.
Via Twitter, the president insisted on Saturday that “all agree” an American president “has the complete power to pardon.”
Evidently, the conversations he had about the subject led to answers Trump liked.
But there’s apparently still some disagreement within Trump World about the nature of these discussions. For example, Jay Sekulow, a member of the president’s outside legal team, told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos yesterday:
“I want to be clear on this, George. We have not and continue to not have conversations with the president of the United States regarding pardons. Pardons have not been discussed and pardons are not on the table.”
Around the same time, however, new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci appeared on Fox News, and was asked why Trump broached the subject in the first place. He replied:
“See, this is one – again, this is one of those things about Washington and it’s the convolution and the nature of the things. I’m in the Oval Office with the president last week, we’re talking about that. He brought that up, he said but he doesn’t have to be pardoned. There’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned. He was just making the statement about the power of pardons.”
So, “pardons have not been discussed,” except the discussions in which Trump brought up pardons?
Sekulow and Scaramucci were consistent, however, on the idea that the president doesn’t intend to issue any pardons as part of the Trump-Russia scandal, because, as they see it, there’s no need.
And while that may seem at least somewhat reassuring, let’s not forget that there’s often no meaningful connection between what Trump does and what members of his team say he’s going to do.