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Trump World continues to raise the prospect of dubious pardons

In 1974, James Neal told a jury considering charges against Watergate defendants about "veiled, camouflaged offers of clemency made without using that word."
Image: FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump walks with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani through the new Trump International Hotel in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (L) through the new Trump International Hotel...

Rudy Giuliani, who somehow finds time to serve as one of Donald Trump's lawyers, told CNN yesterday that when it comes to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and the Russia scandal, there's been "no criminality involved in it of any kind."

It was hard not to laugh. At last count, 20 individuals and three businesses have faced criminal indictments as a result of the special counsel's investigation. Several people, including the former White House national security advisor, have already pleaded guilty. One person was already sentenced to prison. The man who led the president's political operation is currently in jail, pending trial, because of witness tampering.

In what universe has there been "no criminality involved in it of any kind"? Does the former mayor mean other than all the documented criminality that's already been exposed?

But that's not all Giuliani said.

Rudy Giuliani said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Donald Trump was not issuing pardons while the Russia investigation is on-going, but left open the possibility he could once the probe is finished."The president has issued no pardons in this investigation," Giuliani told CNN's Jake Tapper. "The president is not going to issue pardons in this investigation. And my advice to him, you know, as long as I'm his lawyer, is not to do it because you just cloud what is becoming now a very clear picture of an extremely unfair investigation with no criminality involved in it of any kind."However, Giuliani said later in the interview that Trump could pardon people who were treated "unfairly" once the probe led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller is through.

There's been quite a bit of talk along these lines, hasn't there? On Friday morning, Donald Trump was asked about the possibility of pardoning Manafort, and though the president said he didn't want to talk about it, he also didn't rule it out.

A few hours later, after Manafort was sent to jail, Giuliani told the New York Daily News, "When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons."

A cynic might wonder if maybe Trump World were trying to ensure that certain people remain silent, refusing to cooperate with the special counsel's investigation, confident in the knowledge that the president would shield them from consequences later on.

Trump has already demonstrated a willingness to abuse his pardon powers, but this rhetoric is taking the issue in a deeply alarming direction.

Author Ken Hughes noted over the weekend that in December 1974, James Neal told a jury considering charges against Watergate defendants about "veiled, camouflaged offers of clemency made without using that word." Nearly 44 years later, that sentence seems equally applicable.

Rachel talked to the Washington Post's Devlin Barrett on Friday's show about the possible improprieties of the rhetoric. Barrett agreed this is "something you're not supposed to do as a legal matter," adding that it's "alarming, certainly, to law enforcement officials."

Watch this space.