This is really interesting. That cooperation agreement that the Mueller team signed with Paul Manafort when he pleaded guilty was essentially pardon-proofed. They put provisions in the agreement that give Manafort a strong incentive not to ask for or accept a pardon from Trump. Here’s how they did it:
The 17-page deal doesn’t explicitly prohibit Manafort from seeking a pardon, but some lawyers said it appears to extract a promise from Manafort not to seek another form of executive clemency that could relieve him of the obligation to turn over tens of millions of property to the government as part of the plea bargain. The agreement also says prosecutors can come after the five identified homes or apartments, three bank accounts and a life insurance policy now or at any point in the future “without regard to the status of his criminal conviction.”Another part of the deal says that if Manafort’s guilty pleas or convictions are wiped out for any reason, prosecutors immediately have the right to charge him with any other crimes he may have committed previously or confessed to during recent plea negotiations.
This has advocates for broad presidential power, particularly those who advocate the “unitary executive” theory, up in arms. But they’re wrong. It doesn’t restrict Trump in any way. He is still free to pardon Manafort if he chooses. But Manafort now has good reason to reject a pardon — and here’s the most important part — he voluntarily agreed to that arrangement. He could have said no to them if he chose, but he didn’t. And if their argument is that Manafort agreed to this under duress, so what? The duress is brought about by his own actions and the potential consequences he faced if he hadn’t copped a plea.
And remember, the first thing they do when they sign such an agreement is have the person confess to every single crime they committed. They already have all of that on the record. So if he seeks a pardon, or if he doesn’t live up to his end of the bargain in testifying or giving them evidence on Trump, he would then face trial on all of the things he confessed to.