‘Conspiracy to obstruct justice’: Ex-DOJ official explains why bombshell Manafort pardon report could doom Trump
Paul Manafort and Donald Trump (RawStory / Composite)

A former top Justice Department official federal prosecutor said a bombshell report on possible pardons explains why Paul Manafort hadn't rolled up on President Donald Trump -- who may have committed an impeachable offense with his reported offer.

Harry Litman, who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department from 1993 to 1998 and U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post that Manafort clearly believes Trump will pardon him.

"Manafort’s refusal to cooperate can’t be driven by a rational calculation that he has any reasonable chance of escaping conviction, multimillion-dollar legal fees and a prison sentence that will result in years behind bars," Litman wrote.

He said Trump's former campaign chairman faces damning evidence and a potential life sentence, yet he still has not agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.

"In fact, no credible defense lawyer would advise Manafort that he can win the case. And if by some miracle he secures a mistrial, the government will retry the charges — the stakes are too high," Litman wrote.

That's why the New York Times report that recently departed Trump defense attorney John Dowd had discussed a pardon with Manafort's then-lawyer Reginald Brown was so significant -- and another piece of evidence for Mueller to consider against the president.

"Dowd’s reported overture, particularly if done with the president’s knowledge or consent, could have constituted a conspiracy to obstruct justice, a separate impeachable offense," Litman wrote. "That presumably is why the story includes a categorical denial from Dowd that he ever discussed pardons for the president’s former advisers with lawyers. For Dowd, the conduct would be putting his license at risk."