WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Donald Trump, spurred by the president’s own inquiries, are exploring his power to grant pardons — to aides, family and himself — as a means of undermining special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, The Washington Post reports.
The Post, citing an unnamed source familiar with the queries, said the president himself had asked advisers about the constitutional power, although another source noted that Trump sought only to further his understanding of the privilege. Trump’s lawyer John Dowd called the claims “nonsense.”
Trump’s lawyers are also looking into Mueller’s potential conflicts of interests, perhaps as a way of removing him from the Justice Department’s investigation, according to a Post article that cited several of Trump’s legal advisers.
Also on Thursday, various outlets reported Trump’s longtime personal attorney and lead counsel on the Russia investigation, Marc Kasowitz, would be stepping into a smaller role. Kasowitz made headlines last week after he threatened a stranger in a string of profane emails, saying things like “watch your back, bitch,” and “I’m on you.”
Trump has reportedly been unhappy with some members of his legal team following a series of revelations involving his son Donald Trump Jr.
HuffPost has reached out to Kasowitz for comment.
Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Trump’s team of personal lawyers, resigned Thursday, the Post and Times reported.
The New York Times also reported on the Trump team’s inquiries, which it described as “wide-ranging,” including “scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates” and looking into investigators’ former clients and Mueller’s relationship with former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump fired Comey in May while he was leading an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. Trump later admitted he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to dismiss the FBI director.
Among the potential conflicts of interest that Trump’s lawyers are looking at is an alleged dispute over membership fees between Mueller and Trump’s Virginia golf club, according to the Post.
Earlier Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Mueller’s team is examining transactions involving the president’s businesses and those of his associates, including “Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008.”
CBS News later confirmed the report, and the Wall Street Journal said the investigation includes potential money laundering by Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager during part of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Manafort is scheduled to testify before Congress on July 26, as will the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
Eric Holder, who was an attorney general in the Obama administration, tweeted Thursday night that there was no valid reason to question Mueller’s investigation: