Last summer, as the special counsel's office was asking a grand jury to indict Michael Flynn on a variety of charges - while simultaneously imploring the former national security adviser to cooperate with investigators - Donald Trump's lawyer chose to have a word with Flynn's attorney about the president's pardon powers.
"The fact that an official who had an important role in the Trump campaign alongside (Paul) Manafort was dealing with an individual who he knew was tied to Russian intelligence is a big deal, as is the fact that Mueller made a decision to put that card face up on the table at this time", said a person familiar with Mueller's investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to the Times, Dowd talked about the idea as special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russian Federation probe MORE was building cases against Flynn and Manafort.
Dowd joined Trump's legal team last summer, and Flynn pleaded guilty in December.
But Paul Manafort hasn't, despite being hit with a plethora of tax, bank fraud, false statements, and other charges in two different venues, with documentary evidence that sure seems damning.
The Times reported that it was not clear if Dowd had discussed the prospect of pardons with President Trump, but that Trump had asked about the extent of his pardoning power in a meeting a year ago with lawyers from the White House Counsel's Office.
Gates, a previous biz companion of ex-Trump project chair Paul Manafort, is accepting Mueller after begging guilty to non listed lobbying as well as loan laundering. An attorney for Gates did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sean Penn smokes cigarettes during late-night talk show appearance
Always the candid interviewee, Penn started off his interview by nonchalantly telling Colbert about his Ambien-induced state. The late-night host told Penn he should really quit smoking because he wants the accomplished actor to live a long life.
Dowd insisted Wednesday that he did not raise the idea of pardons with lawyers representing the two men.
A spokesman for Manafort, who is prevented by a court-imposed gag order from talking to the media, declined to comment.
Current Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Ty Cobb echoed that sentiment.
In December, after Flynn pleaded guilty, Trump was asked by reporters if he would be willing to pardon Flynn and Trump replied he wasn't ready to discuss it - "yet".
Such discussions could not constitute the crime of obstruction of justice because the president has vast power to issue pardons, according to Alan Dershowitz, an emeritus law professor at Harvard Law School. No United States president has ever done so but governors have. "This is all my personal opinion, and I stand by it". He added, "I ask for quick action on this".
Trump has already pardoned Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Trump loyalist who now says he's running for Senate, for a criminal contempt conviction in a case dealing with racial profiling.