A Manafort pardon would guarantee impeachment proceedings

A Manafort pardon would guarantee impeachment proceedings
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If President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE pardons Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortManafort sought to hurt Clinton 2016 campaign efforts in key states: NYT Ex-Trump campaign official testifies Stone gave updates on WikiLeaks email dumps Paul Manafort's former son-in-law sentenced to 9 years in prison for scamming Dustin Hoffman, others MORE, he would trigger a national firestorm and guarantee the convening of impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.  

As special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE prepares to finish his work, there is a significant chance that he will file final indictments against sensitively placed individuals, and/or we will soon learn about indictments that have already occurred and are now sealed.

Setting aside the generosity that Judge T.S. Ellis III showed toward Manafort in his sentence announced on Thursday, which is proof of the double standard of justice that continues in America today, Manafort was still sentenced to almost four years in prison.

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Next week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson will sentence Manafort for other crimes he was convicted of and will probably show less kindness and generosity to the criminal that Judge Ellis incredibly stated had otherwise lived a blameless life. 

My guess is that the odds are low that Trump will pardon Manafort. After a pardon, Manafort will almost immediately be subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury about Trump and other Trump associates and will be forced under law to tell the whole truth without any protection from the Fifth Amendment or any other law.

A Manafort pardon will therefore provide no legal protection for Trump, which his lawyers have almost certainly told him.

However, to the degree that Trump is alarmed by the current situation, it is possible he could make a last-ditch stand and pardon Manafort and potentially issue a mass pardon, including others who have been or could be charged.

As I suggested in my column in The Hill, by the degree that Trump has escalated his war against Mueller, he does not sound like a man confident in the outcome of the investigation.

Any pardon of Manafort, other convicted criminals, those who have reached plea bargains in this case or any suspect who could soon be indicted will create a tidal wave of national outrage that will make the Nixon years seem mild by comparison and lead to a similar outcome.

Democrats should not focus on impeachment or publicly discuss it until the Mueller report is finalized and released or until Trump takes an action, such as a pardon.

What is happening today is extraordinary and unprecedented. From the moment of Trump’s inauguration until the end of Republican control of the House, the GOP House was a virtual appendage of the continuing Trump campaign and the Trump presidency.  

Most key House committees controlled by Republicans were run like partisan GOP machines that were more interested in avoiding oversight than performing it, more interested in covering up wrongdoing than investigating and exposing it.

The Democratic House has much work to do to make up for two years of inaction. A long list of committees, which did not act before the midterms, will now act assertively to perform oversight involving the Russia scandal and any administration departments where highly questionable actions were taken without rigorous oversight.

The tensions surrounding Manafort, Mueller and the enormously significant investigations continuing in the Southern District of New York and Congress will continue to escalate during the coming days, weeks and months.

The public release of the Mueller report, the intense backlash against the lack of public release if that occurs, the possibility of new high-level indictments and the sentencing next week of Manafort by Judge Jackson will all create excruciating legal and political pressures for all concerned.

While I believe a pardon of Manafort is unlikely, if it happens, the national outrage will be so intense that impeachment proceedings will become inevitable, and the epic constitutional crisis of our times will reach a crescendo and move toward resolution.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.