An ex-aide to Robert Mueller during his special counsel investigation of now-debunked Democrat claims the Trump campaign in 2016 colluded with Russia, Andrew Weissmann, is making the case for President Trump to “pardon” himself, according to a constitutional expert.
The comments come from Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.
Weissman was considered the “pit bull” of the Mueller team, which failed to make a case against the Trump campaign after allegations that were based on political opposition documents paid for partly by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Biden, following the November election that produced results that still are being challenged, called for everyone to “turn the page, to unite, to heal.”
Weissman, instead, according to the Independent newspaper of London, claimed that Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, two Trump associates caught up during the Mueller investigation, could still could be in trouble after President Trump pardon them.
As could President Trump, he insisted.
Manafort and Stone could be forced to testify before a grand jury and, if caught lying, locked up, Weissman charged. Manafort was jailed for financial misdeeds and Stone was convicted of obstructing the House investigation into the debunked collusion claim.
“You cannot be pardoned for future crimes and each of those people, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, has evidence in their head,” Weissman said in an interview Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “They have information that a grand jury could seek, they can all be given grand jury subpoenas, required to testify in the grand jury.”
He said that if they then lie before a grand jury, “which is a new crime, and that happens after 20 January, there is no President Trump at that point to give them a get out of jail free card.”
He suggested President Trump himself could be targeted.
Turley explained that Weissman’s contentions are “unfounded and dubious.”
“It was also vintage Weissmann, who made the case against himself as someone who shows bias against Trump that overwhelms all other considerations,” Turley explained. “If Trump wants a rationale to pardon himself, he can look no further than Weissmann, who was appointed as a top aide to special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump and numerous Republicans denounced him as a donor to Barack Obama, and he was said to have attended the election night party for Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
He said his objections were because of Weissmann’s “extreme interpretations that were ultimately rejected by courts.”
That was the situation when Weissmann “was responsible for the overextension of an obstruction provision in a jury instruction that led the Supreme Court to reverse the conviction in the Arthur Andersen case in 2005,” he explained.
“After leaving the special counsel’s office, Weissmann seemed intent on proving critics correct in saying that he was a uniquely poor choice by Mueller to serve as his deputy. Now, Weissmann is openly voicing the extreme interpretations that have led many of us to criticize his tenure at the Justice Department. … His most recent column is illustrative. Many of us called out the recent pardons by Trump, ranging from corrupt former members of Congress to the father of Jared Kushner. However, Weissmann insists that the pardon of figures tied to the special counsel investigation is evidence of obstruction.”
However, Turley explained, “these individuals were not pardoned to stop them from testifying or, with the case of Michael Flynn, from working with prosecutors, nor were they pardoned before they were tried and convicted.”
He pointed out Manafort served time in prison, former campaign aide George Papadopoulos and attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan served sentences and Flynn was convicted and “should have been sentenced years earlier if not for a series of bizarre actions by the federal judge who heard his case.”
Also, Trump did not pardon his lawyer, Michael Cohen.
“That is a curious pattern for obstruction. Wait until everyone testifies and most are sent to prison before they are pardoned.”
It appears, Turley explained, “Weissmann simply misunderstands criminal obstruction. Indeed, he may have the longest learning curve in legal history on this issue. Not even an unanimous rejection of his views by the Supreme Court for the case of Andersen seems to register with him, particularly when the law stands in the way of pursuing Trump.”
Turley pointed out Mueller did not find a case for obstruction, and both former Attorney General William Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein agreed.
None of this matters to Weissmann, who comes across as a legal Captain Ahab, so blinded by rage that he would lay waste to the criminal code to nab his white whale. This same kind of rage could be cited by Trump for a controversial pardon of himself. I believe a president can pardon himself but should not do so. Even if someone had standing to challenge that, the Constitution is silent on any such limitation on the pardon power. That is the same reason I believe a president can be indicted in office. Yet, while constitutional, I still view self-pardons as a misuse of the power.
There are solid arguments on both sides of this debate, which has gone on for decades. From my view, the main obstacle is political rather than constitutional, but Weissmann and others are now working to remove that barrier. These critics demand prosecutions of Trump and his associates with the same blind fury as Captain Ahab, who said, “From heart of hell I stab at thee. For the sake of hate I spit my last breath at thee. Ye damned whale.” Their long-standing rage could be the long-sought rationale for the president.
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