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United States

Donald Trump’s lawyer says president won’t pardon Russia probe targets now – but later on, who knows?

Giuliani said on Sunday that Trump would not pardon anyone during the investigation, but ‘when it’s over, hey, he’s the president’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 5:20am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 6:30am

Donald Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has walked back earlier his earlier suggestion that the president might pardon the targets in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

“The president is not going to issue a pardon in this investigation,” Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “I want that to come out loud and clear.

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He said he would advise Trump against such actions during the probe “Because you just cloud what is becoming now a very clear picture of an extremely unfair investigation with no criminality involved of any kind.”

But he didn’t rule out Trump pardoning people after the investigation was done. “’When it’s over, hey, he’s the president of the United States,” Giuliani said. “He retains his pardon power. Nobody’s taking that away from him.”

Giuliani raised the prospect that the president was considering pardons late last week, after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was jailed for violating terms of his bail in Washington.

He is awaiting a September trial on money laundering and fraud charges. He also faces a July trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is charged with bank and tax fraud.

A federal judge revoked Manafort’s US$10 million bond Friday after he was charged with obstruction for allegedly tampering with witnesses in the pending criminal cases against him.

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Manafort is one of 20 people known to be charged in the year-long Russia investigation. Five people, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates have pleaded guilty.

“When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons,” Giuliani told the New York Daily News. “You put a guy in jail if he’s trying to kill witnesses, not just talking to witnesses.”

Giuliani also renewed his attacks on the legitimacy of the Russia inquiry headed by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Citing findings in last week’s Justice Department inspector general’s report related to the conduct of two senior FBI agents, the former mayor called for a review of the origins of the Russia investigation.

The inspector general, during an 18-month review of the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, unearthed text messages exchanged by the agents in which they disparaged Trump.

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Both of the agents held top positions in both the FBI’s Clinton and Trump investigations.

In one of the messages, FBI counter-intelligence official Peter Strzok suggested that he might take action to “stop” Trump’s candidacy.

“We want the Mueller probe to be investigated the way the Trump administration has been investigated,” Giuliani said on Sunday.

Giuliani argued that the Mueller probe was tainted from the start, thanks to former FBI Director James Comey.

“I believe that the Mueller investigation should be investigated not because necessarily of Mueller but because of its genesis in this very, very now completely almost illegal and unethical probe, this Russian probe,” he said.

“I’m saying what led up to the special counsel. I don’t think Mueller and his people need to be investigated, unless something comes out of that,” he said.

Trump fired Comey in May last year, later admitting that the Russia probe was on his mind when he did so, which in turn ramped up suspicions of obstruction of justice.

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Giuliani’s comments were the latest in a barrage of attacks on the probe by the president and his lawyers as Mueller appears to be nearing a conclusion to his investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

“WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion. Oh, I see, there was no Russian Collusion, so now they look for obstruction on the no Russian Collusion. The phoney Russian Collusion was a made up Hoax,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

“Too bad they didn’t look at Crooked Hillary like this. Double Standard!” he added, referring to his 2016 Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Later on Sunday, Giuliani said on CBS’s Face the Nation that he would continue to push for such an internal review as a condition in the ongoing negotiations with Mueller who is seeking an interview with Trump in the Russia inquiry.

As part of that investigation, Mueller’s team is reviewing whether Trump sought to obstruct the probe when he fired FBI Director James Comey last year.

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“We are in rather sensitive negotiations,” Giuliani said, adding that it was important to first learn whether Strzok had “infected” the Russia investigation before he was removed last year.

“I don’t want to do it,” Giuliani said, referring to a Mueller interview with Trump. “The president wants to do it.”

The former mayor said a decision on a possible interview would likely be made by July 4.

Also on Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Roger Stone, a one-time Trump adviser, has admitted meeting a Russian national who was offering dirt on Clinton in May 2016, but said the man wanted money and nothing came of it.

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Giuliani told State of the Union that he didn’t think the president knew about Stone’s meeting.

“I doubt it,” he said. “I certainly didn’t know about it. It’s news to me, I just read it here in The Washington Post.”

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and USA Today contributed to this report.