Conservative advocacy groups have renewed calls for President Donald Trump to pardon those implicated in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, citing allegations of partisan sabotage.
The push comes as the Mueller inquiry notches important victories. A grand jury in Washington, D.C., issued sweeping indictments against 13 Russian nationals for interference operations on Friday. The Los Angeles Times reported just two days later that former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a government oversight group, said the president should seriously consider clemency for his associates given the alleged anti-Trump bias of Justice Department investigators. Several lawyers who joined Mueller’s team have donated to Democratic candidates, while FBI agents assessing Russian sabotage efforts regularly traded texts attacking Trump’s candidacy.
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“The whole super structure of the Russia investigation is compromised,” Fitton told Politico. “Those caught up in it deserve some protection. Rather than just let the virus run its course, it’d be appropriate for the president to consider pardons for people who are caught up in the prosecution.”
Frederick Fleitz of the Center for Security Policy and Larry Klayman, a prodigious conservative litigator, expressed similar sentiments.
There is not yet evidence that the alleged bias affected the substance of the investigations.
The comments appeared just one day after the LAT reported that Gates will plead guilty to fraud-related charges in exchange for a reduced sentence. He is expected to cooperate with the special counsel’s case against Paul Manafort, the deposed Trump campaign manager facing 12 criminal charges ranging from money laundering to violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Unnamed sources close to the process say the deal is somewhat informal — the agreement does not yet exist in writing and Mueller’s team has not been specific as to possible sentencing reductions.
Prosecutors say Gates and Manafort funneled millions of dollars from overseas bank accounts and shell companies to buy property, cars, and other luxury items. The pair advised politicians in the former Soviet bloc throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
Gates was the campaign’s deputy manager and liaison to the Republican National Committee. He also assisted the Trump Inaugural Committee.
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned in disgrace in the early days of Trump’s presidency, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to making false statements to the FBI about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, the former Russian ambassador to the U.S.
The Trump legal team has repeatedly denied that the president is entertaining possible pardons.
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