January 24, 2021
Donald Trump's Pardons Were So 'Poorly Worded' That His Allies May Still Be Prosecuted, Legal Experts Say

Former President Donald Trump issued more than 100 pardons before leaving the White House, most of them to personal friends and political allies, including controversial figures such as Paul Manafort and Gen. Michael Flynn.

According to a Saturday report from Business Insider, some legal experts believe that Trump's pardons were so "poorly worded" that the individuals he pardoned may still be open to prosecution.

Manafort, who briefly managed Trump's 2016 campaign, was convicted of federal violations linked to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference and related matters.

Manafort's pardon was very narrow, according to University of Baltimore law professor Kimberly Wehle, which means that authorities could still go after him. "It says 'for his conviction' and that's it. It's just for the crimes for which he was convicted," she said.

To illustrate her point, Wehle compared Manafort's pardon to the one former President Richard Nixon received. "That is a different wording than Richard Nixon received under his pardon, which is for 'all conceivable crimes,'" the expert explained.

Attorney Andrew Weissman, who worked on Mueller's probe, agreed with Wehle, claiming that Manafort was pardoned for criminal acts of "conviction" which means that he can still be prosecuted on conspiracy charges and charges related to money laundering and witness tampering.

"That leaves numerous crimes as to which Manafort can still be prosecuted, as in Virginia there were 10 hung counts. In Washington, the situation is even more wide open," Wessman stated.

Flynn -- who served as Trump's national security adviser and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but was later pardoned -- may be vulnerable to prosecution as well.

General Michael Flynn speaks during a protest of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Washington, DC.
Getty Images | Tasos Katopodis

According to clemency attorney Margaret Love, in pardoning Flynn, Trump may have asserted powers that he did not actually have, which means that a judge could decide that Flynn's pardon does not fully protect him from prosecution.

"I believe there is a strong argument that the constitutional pardon power requires a degree of specificity as to what crime it is pardoning."
Love said that President Joe Biden's Justice Department could decide to go after Flynn and noted that incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland could bring another case against the former national security adviser.

She explained that a competent prosecutor would look "closely at [the pardon] wording" and make a determination based on that.

As Trump was preparing to leave office, some reports alleged that he and his advisers sought payments for pardons as soon as they realized that the commander-in-chief had not legitimate path to victory in the 2020 presidential election.