Trump's lawyer discussed idea of him pardoning Flynn, Manafort: report

A lawyer for President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE reportedly discussed the possibility last year of the president pardoning his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMake the special counsel report public for the sake of Americans Paul Manafort should not be sentenced to 20 years in prison Mueller recommends Manafort serve at least 19 years in prison MORE.

The lawyer, John Dowd, who abruptly resigned from his role last week, broached the topic last year with lawyers for Flynn and Manafort, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

According to the Times, Dowd talked about the idea as special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE was building cases against Flynn and Manafort.

Dowd's conversations with Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, happened after Dowd took over as the president's personal lawyer last summer, the newspaper reported. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI.

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The discussion with Manafort's lawyer happened before the former Trump campaign chairman was indicted in October on money laundering charges and other alleged financial crimes, according to the Times.

Dowd, who called for an end to Mueller's investigation just days before he resigned, denied any conversations of pardons with the two former Trump associates. Lawyers representing Trump in the special counsel probe also said they had no knowledge of the discussions.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday read a statement from lawyer Ty Cobb saying that there has been no discussion or consideration of pardons, but added there is no pardon discussion "at this time."

“There's no discussion or consideration of that at this time,” Sanders told reporters at the White House. “The president has the authority to pardon individuals, but you're asking me about a specific case in which it hasn't been discussed.

The reported discussions raise legal questions over whether Trump's alleged offer of a pardon in the midst of the special counsel investigation could constitute an obstruction of justice. 

Flynn, who pleaded guilty about lying in regards to his conversations with the former Russian ambassador, agreed to cooperate with the special counsel. 

Dowd reportedly said in private that he did not know why Flynn took the plea deal, suggesting that Trump thought the case was flimsy enough for him to pardon his former national security adviser.

Trump had urged former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMcCabe's 25th Amendment comments 'taken out of context,' spokeswoman says Ex-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump Ex-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ MORE, who was leading the investigation into Flynn at the time, to end the probe, Comey told Congress last year.

In the weeks leading up to Flynn's indictment, Trump said "we'll see what happens" when asked about potential pardons. The president has expressed his sympathy for Flynn, and voiced his frustration at the FBI and the "rigged system" for having "destroyed" Flynn's life. 

Manafort, who has denied wrongdoing in some of the charges against him, could potentially face hundreds of years in prison if found guilty on charges against him over possibly illicit work with Russian-backed political parties in Europe. 

– Josh Delk contributed to this report, which was updated at 3:01 p.m.