Trump is said to be considering a slew of pardons and commutations before he leaves office, including potentially members of his family, former aides and even himself.
While it is not unusual for presidents to sign controversial pardons on their way out the door, Trump has made clear that he has no qualms about intervening in the cases of friends and allies whom he believes have been treated unfairly, including his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
The list of potential candidates is long and colorful: Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, imprisoned for financial crimes as part of the Russia investigation; George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, just like Flynn; Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” who starred in the the Netflix series “Tiger King”; and former contractors convicted in a Baghdad firefight that killed more than a dozen civilians, including women and children.
Trump, long worried about potential legal exposure after he leaves office, has expressed worry to confidants in recent weeks that he, his family or his business might be targeted by President-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department, although Biden has made clear he won’t be part of any such decisions.
Nonetheless, Trump has had informal conversations with allies about how he might be able to protect his family, though he has not taken any steps to do so.
His adult children haven’t requested pardons nor do they feel they need them, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private matters.
Trump has also discussed potentially shielding himself, The New York Times first reported.
In a video posted on Facebook on Wednesday, he made a glancing reference to his potential vulnerabilities.
“Now I hear that these same people that failed to get me in Washington have sent every piece of information to New York so that they can try to get me there,” he said.
The speculation prompted a slew of preemptive pushback from critics.
“Typically if someone is being given a pardon it suggests they may have committed a crime. That’s not something I would want to have associated with my family,” said Republican Sen Mitt Romney of Utah, a frequent critic of Trump.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer decried the notion of the president asking staff whether he can issue preemptive pardons for himself, his family members and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, with whom Trump has discussed potential action.