Special counsel Robert Mueller may now have a new avenue of investigation: 'Whether the president corruptly considered a pardon to obstruct the investigation.'
If Trump used pardons to influence the decisions of key witnesses like Michael Flynn in the Russia probe, he may have just handed special counsel Robert Mueller an entirely new line of investigation to pursue.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Trump's former lawyer, John Dowd, discussed the possibility last year of Trump issuing pardons to his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The talks between Dowd and lawyers for Flynn and Manafort took place as Mueller "was building cases against both men," the Times reported. This raises "questions about whether [Dowd] was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation."
While Trump has the power to issue pardons, he does not have the right to do so with corrupt intent. Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, made exactly this point on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon.
Rosen said the discussions about potentially pardoning Flynn and Manafort raise serious legal questions about whether Trump's alleged offer of a pardon in the middle of the investigation could constitute an obstruction of justice.
"What do you glean from all of this?" host Craig Melvin asked. "What's the top-line takeaway?"
"That Mueller may have a new avenue of investigation: whether the president corruptly considered a pardon to obstruct the investigation," Rosen said.
He added: "And if it's a central concern of Mueller's, it should be a new concern of President Trump's."
The alleged offer of pardons to Flynn and Manafort has also caught the attention of congressional investigators, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
Responding to the Times' report, Lieu — a member of the House Judiciary Committee — questioned what Trump's legal team might have been seeking to hide by dangling pardons in front of Flynn and Manfort.
"Why was former @realDonaldTrump lawyer John Dowd so concerned that he would discuss pardons for people who are not his clients?" Lieu asked in a tweet. "What information was Dowd trying to prevent Flynn and Manafort from disclosing about @POTUS to the Special Counsel?"
Mueller is reportedly already investigating Trump for potentially obstructing justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey. Now, he may have an entirely new line of investigation in that probe.
All of this raises the question: If Trump has nothing to hide, why is he going to such lengths to carry out a cover-up?
Mueller may soon discover the answer to that question.