How Pardons Could Backfire On Trump

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President Donald Trump speaks on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump speaks on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

After two of President Trump's former top campaign aides were indicted for money laundering and conspiracy in an alleged secret foreign lobbying scheme, some people are asking whether the president will issue pardons to halt the Russia probe.

But, constitutional law expert and Harvard University professor Noah Feldman told On Point's Tom Ashbrook Tuesday, pardons could backfire on President Trump.

Here’s why: Under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Rick Gates have the right to remain silent and can’t be forced to incriminate themselves. Those protections disappear after a presidential pardon, Feldman said.

“If you pardon somebody, they can still be made to testify," Feldman said during On Point's show on the charges against the president's former campaign advisers. "They can’t plead the Fifth, because they can’t be convicted of a crime.”

That makes them potentially more dangerous as witnesses against the president, Feldman said.

Manafort and Gates were named in an indictment, unsealed Monday, alleging a widespread corrupt lobbying scheme. Separately, we found out Monday that another Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty for lying to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, who are looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Papadopoulos is cooperating with authorities, they said.

But if Manafort and Gates are pardoned and refuse to testify in future proceedings, a judge could jail them on contempt of court charges, or they could be charged with perjury if they lie, Feldman said.

“Manafort, he’s up against the wall, and if he does know something, I think the odds are pretty good that he’ll tell it,” Feldman said.

According to ABC News, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday there was no plan to make any changes to "make any changes with regard to the special counsel."

The New York Times reported Monday that even if President Trump does pardon his ex-campaign advisers, the investigations would continue, because state authorities in New York are also looking into some of the same activities.

Listen to the full episode on the indictment of Manafort and Gates, and the separate guilty plea of campaign adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to investigators, by clicking this link.

This segment aired on October 31, 2017.


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