A former federal prosecutor who led the homicide unit in Washington, D.C. noted a critical distinctions between different confidantes of Donald Trump as the president reportedly considers politically-motivated pardons to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Glenn Kirshner, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, explained to MSNBC anchor Alex Witt the variance in benefits to the White House of pardoning Michael Flynn or Michael Cohen.
"Let's get to former Attorney General Eric Holder, who says the president is using pardons to try to send a message to some people who potentially could be involved in the Russia investigation," Witt noted. "If the president offers pardons to those caught up in the Mueller probe, does he then possibly put himself in legal jeopardy?"
"Alex, that's a great question, because we all know that the president's pardon power is unfettered, he can pardon whom he pleases, when he pleases," Kirschner answered. "However, once he makes a decision to pardon somebody, then the Mueller team can use that as evidence of his intent, for what he's thinking."
"Why did he pardon that person? Was it for a corrupter purpose? Which could feed into a collusion or conspiracy case," he explained. "We've heard talk about who the president might pardon, Michael Cohen or Michael Flynn, and I think we need to parse that out a little more specifically, because these two men are in very different stages of the criminal proceedings."
"If he were to pardon Michael Cohen, then that could put a real stumbling block in front of the Mueller investigation, because as it's been reported, Michael Cohen has not yet met with or assisted or cooperated with the Mueller team," he continued. "So the Mueller team doesn't necessarily know what Michael Cohen can bring to the table."
"However, they certainly know what Michael Flynn can bring to the table, because before you bring a cooperating witness on board as a prosecutor, you have debriefed that person many times, you have likely put that person in the grand jury and you have recorded -- in a proceeding -- the sworn testimony of that person," Kirshner noted.
"So, guess what? If the president chooses to pardon Michael Flynn, that is only going to help Michael Flynn," he concluded. "It's not necessarily going to help the people about whom Michael Flynn has given testimony."
"It's sort of like, you know, you're closing the barn door long after the Michael Flynn horse is out frolicking in the field and he will not be put back in that barn, pardon or no pardon," he added.