But now comes Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, who has been subjecting the Mueller report to a deep dive read (if you are not following his “reading diary,” you really need to start). Wittes offers evidence of a third possible version: Mueller’s report suggests strongly that Trump did, in fact, successfully obstruct the investigation by dangling pardons to potential witness, most notably former campaign chairman Paul Manafort
Focusing on the section involving Trump’s handling of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Manafort, Wittes says that Mueller describes “a very ugly and dangerous pattern” in Trump’s behavior.
Even after it had become clear that Flynn was under investigation and had lied to the FBI, Wittes notes that Mueller documents how Trump spoke warmly about him in public and had intermediaries “pass messages to Flynn conveying that the President still cared about him and encouraging him to stay strong.”
But the pattern with Manafort was even clearer and apparently more successful. At one point, Manafort confided to Rick Gates that word had been passed to him that the president was “going to take care of us.” Even as Manafort faced trials, Wittes writes, “Trump publicly flirted with the idea of a pardon and blasted the prosecution. He praised Manafort’s bravery and refusal to flip. And he commented on the trial during the jury’s deliberations.”