In an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, an attorney who calls herself an “informal legal advisor” to Donald Trump offered a free-wheeling defense of the president that included the claim that he got a “thrill” from pardoning Dick Cheney’s former aide Scooter Libby.
The attorney in question, Victoria Toensing, has a lengthy list of connections to the president — she and her husband and legal partner Joe DiGenova were announced as new members of Trump’s Russia legal team last month, only to drop out due to “the appearance of conflicts of interest.” She also represents Libby and, in 2017, was listed as counsel for Fox News host Sean Hannity along with the president’s Russia lawyer Jay Sekulow.
“Why do you think that the president is focusing on these pardon cases right now, unless he’s trying to send a message to [his longtime attorney] Michael Cohen or [former campaign chairman] Paul Manafort?” Burnett asked the attorney.
“Well, if Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort do not know that the president has power authority,” Toensing replied, “then they got something wrong with themselves.” When Burnett pressed her, the lawyer then advised her to not “try to read that kind of message into it.”
Later in the interview, Toensing denied that Trump pardoned Libby to send any sort of message to former aides who may be indicted, instead insisting that the president “got a thrill” from using his power.
When she pivoted to discuss Trump’s potential posthumous pardon of famed boxer Jack Johnson, who was jailed in 1913 after marrying a white woman and then taking her across state lines, Burnett responded with facts.
“[Former attorney general] Eric Holder did an interview about it with a professor who had done a biography of Jack Johnson,” the host noted. “He said, first of all, posthumous pardoning, you can count them on less than one hand. It’s a long process and it doesn’t add up to do it for somebody who’s dead. He referenced Jack Johnson’s treatment of women as a mitigating factor. He had been known for domestic abuse. Do you think the president is aware this is more complicated than meets the eye?”
“I don’t know,” Toensing admitted.
Watch below, via CNN: