President Donald Trump has discussed pardoning three of his children and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani before he leaves office and before any of them have been charged with potential crimes, according to several reports on Tuesday evening.
ABC News and The New York Times both reported that Trump has discussed the pre-emptive pardons with advisers, expressing fear that his successor, President-elect Joe Biden, would unjustly target them when he assumes office in January. The pardons could benefit Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, as well as Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner. Ivanka Trump and Kushner have also served as White House advisers in the Trump administration.
Trump has begun to issue pardons and has granted clemency to former aides and longtime supporters. Last month, he pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian official during the transition before Trump took office in 2017.
None of the five has been charged with a crime, and it’s unclear what impropriety a pardon would seek to guard against. Presidential pardons provide protections against federal crimes, but they do not protect against state or local ones. Pardons are traditionally sought by applications to a federal pardon attorney at least five years after a conviction or release from prison.
Trump’s older children have run afoul of federal investigators multiple times during his tenure in the White House. Donald Trump Jr. faced scrutiny over his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, although he was not charged. Kushner also drew attention when he omitted foreign contacts from his application for White House security clearances. Intelligence officials raised concerns about granting Kushner with the access, but Trump intervened to unilaterally grant the top-secret clearance.
Giuliani, one of Trump’s most vocal surrogates and a key figure behind the discredited attempt to undercut the results of the 2020 election, has reportedly asked the White House directly for a pardon in advance of any criminal charges (Giuliani tweeted that the claim, published by the Times, was “#fakenews”).
Some of Trump’s allies have been pushing the president to issue the pardons before he leaves office. Fox News host Sean Hannity said Monday that Trump “needs to pardon his whole family and himself” as he goes “out the door.”
“I assume that the power of the pardon is absolute and that he should be able to pardon anybody that he wants to,” the conservative commentator said on his radio show.
Adding to the turmoil surrounding the president’s final days, court filings revealed Tuesday that the Justice Department has spent months investigating a “bribery-for-pardon” scheme. The documents did not name any specific individuals or provide dates of the alleged actions, but they appeared to point to an active investigation that could soon lead to charges.