Does President Trump have the power to pardon Manafort and Gates of their crimes against the United States?
Yes, he can but political experts says the pardons would be red flags in the eyes of legislators.
Indictment- FULL TEXT
Second Amendment of the Constitution
Department of Justice Office of the Pardon Attorney- FAQs
Louis Michael Seidman- Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law- Georgetown Law
John C. Harrison- James Madison Distinguished Professor of Law- UVA School of Law
Paul Manafort, Jr. and Richard Gates were indicted on October 27, 2017. The indictment document was unsealed on October 30, revealing 12 alleged criminal counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and false statements to the Department of Justice.
Manafort was President Trumps campaign adviser from March 2016 to August 2016, when he was fired. Some of the alleged crimes took place while Manafort, and his "right-hand man" Gates, were out campaigning. They also had an undisclosed partnership with Ukrainian President Yanukovych.
"It is illegal to act as an agent of a foreign principal engaged in certain United States influence activities without registering the affiliation," the indictment said. "Specifically, a person who engages in lobbying or public relations work in the United States...is required to provide a detailed written registration statement to the United States Department of Justice."
After the indictment was made public, Americans went into a frenzy and asked: Does the President have the power to pardon Manafort and Gates?
According to the constitution, yes.
"The President...shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment," according to the second amendment article two.
Clemency is an unfettered power of the presidency. The only limitation is that the president cannot be impeached to make the pardon, nor can he grant a pardon for state cases.
The President can also preemptively grant a pardon, before a conviction, like President Ford did for Nixon after Watergate.
Even though President Trump has the option to grant a pardon, it wouldn't be in his best interest says political experts.
"A pardon might be a high crime misdemeanor that would give rise to impeachment," Professor Louis Michael Seidman at Georgetown Law said. "If the President were to issue pardons and if that perceived as obstructing the investigation I think there would be a firestorm."
Professor John Harrison at UVA School of Law, formerly at the DOJ's Office of Legal Council, agreed the pardon could raise red flags in Washington.
"Pardons are often controversial," Harrison said. "It is certainly the case that substantially controversial presidential decisions that can be characterized as serious misconduct often give rise to discussions of impeachment. How Congress will approach something like this, I can't say."