Former US attorney explains what to look for if Trump pardons Manafort — and why he could still bring the president down
Paul Manafort and Donald Trump (RawStory / Composite)

With President Donald Trump sending ever-stronger signals that he's considering pardoning his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort after he was found guilty of tax fraud yesterday, one former US attorney explained why a pardon could put the president in political jeopardy.

Barbara McQuade, an MSNBC analyst and former US attorney for the Southern District of Michigan, said that if Trump pardons his former campaign chairman, he would be able to be compelled to testify against the president.

"You'd have to sort of game this out how it would work with a pardon," McQuade told MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace. "If Manafort [is] pardoned, that means he is no longer able to be convicted of a crime and so that means he doesn't have a Fifth Amendment right not to testify."

Without his Fifth Amendment rights, she explained, "a prosecutor could compel him to testify and make him answer questions."

Although the move could be viewed as a boon for prosecutors attempting to get more information on potentially illegal activity conducted by the Trump campaign, it's not without "wrinkles," McQuade said.

"When you compel a witness as opposed to having a witness cooperate, they're a lot less likely to volunteer information and be the kind of witness who tells a full story," she added. "They may answer 'yes' and 'no' truthfully, but they're not going to volunteer the information you really need to tell a compelling narrative."

McQuade added that while Trump could pardon Manafort for federal offenses, "the president doesn't have the power to pardon for state offenses" and therefore wouldn't be able to get him "completely off the hook." 

"It's a little more complicated than saying once you pardon him, he's free to testify," she said.

Watch below, via MSNBC: