New Mueller filing: Manafort, Gates tied to Russian spy in 2016

Based on his tweets and public comments about both entities, the Russian Federation investigation and Mueller's team, those people include the president.

That's according to a report in The New York Times.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Wednesday that President Donald Trump's former lead attorney had raised the issue of pardons for former aides in the Russian Federation probe, as was reported by The New York Times.

Mueller's team could investigate whether attorney John Dowd, who left the president's legal team last week, made the pardon offers in an effort to thwart the investigation. He said he had told [Flynn lawyer Robert Kelner] that the president had long believed that the case against Mr. Flynn was flimsy and was prepared to pardon him, the person said. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his Russian contacts. Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges including money laundering.

The alleged conversations happened as special counsel Robert Mueller was building cases against Flynn and Manafort as part of Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"We had a terrific relationship with Mueller-the best that I can recall in my 50 years of practice", Dowd told the National Law Review in a report published Wednesday afternoon.

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The discussions between Dowd and lawyers for Manafort and Flynn indicated Trump's legal team was concerned about what the two former aides would reveal if they cut a deal with Mueller in exchange for leniency, according to the newspaper.

But it's very unlikely that the DOJ Pardon Attorney's office would play a role in any decision to issue a pardon besides creating a formal record after the fact, unless Trump wanted the advice. (Kilimnik has denied any such links to Russian intelligence.) That is to say, Manafort was employing a person who probably had a direct line, and who knows what other secret connections, to the Kremlin.

For those keeping score, van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch, German Khan, one of the owners of Alfa Bank, and had extensive dealings with Manafort on his earlier work for the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine.

Dowd insisted Wednesday that he did not raise the idea of pardons with lawyers representing the two men. She added waiving their potential sentences is "not being now discussed at the White House". Not quite. He added a qualifier: "As far as I know, no discussions".

"The president's power to pardon is absolute and not subject to review even if he does it for political reasons", said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Department of Justice.