An attorney for President Donald Trump raised the idea of Trump pardoning two of his former top advisers last year as Special Counsel Robert Mueller was building a case against them as part of his Russia probe, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
John Dowd, who was Trump's lead lawyer in the special counsel investigation until he resigned last week, broached the issue in discussions with attorneys for former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, the Times reported, citing three people with knowledge of the talks.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing that White House counsel "Ty Cobb is the person that would be most directly involved in this and he's got a statement on the record saying that there's no discussion and there's no consideration of those at this time at the White House."
Dowd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the newspaper, the discussions about potential pardons raise questions about whether Dowd was using the issue to influence Flynn and Manafort's decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller's investigation into possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
The paper said in its report, however, that it was unclear whether Dowd discussed the idea of the pardons with Trump before approaching the lawyers for Flynn and Manafort.
Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia and is cooperating with Mueller's probe.
Robert Kelner, Flynn's lawyer, and Reginald Brown, Manafort attorney at the time, did not respond to requests for comment.
Manafort is facing charges in two separate indictments charging him with a variety of offenses, including conspiring to launder money, tax evasion and failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine's former pro-Russian government. He has denied wrongdoing and is preparing for trial.
The discussions between Dowd and lawyers for Manafort and Flynn indicated Trump's legal team was concerned about what the two former aides would reveal if they cut a deal with Mueller in exchange for leniency, according to the newspaper.
Dowd denied to the Times that he discussed pardons with lawyers for the president's former advisers.