President Donald Trump has reportedly discussed the possibility of issuing presidential pardons for himself and his family before he leaves office, raising questions among many political analysts. Neither Trump nor his children have been accused of a crime officially, although they have been tied to some civil and criminal investigations in recent years. Still, no president has ever attempted to pardon himself in American history.
Multiple news outlets reported on the rumor that Trump was considering pre-emptive pardons for himself, his family and his inner circle in the next month. Between those sources and informed speculation, journalists have only been able to guess that Trump is concerned about cases where the Trump Organization has been accused of fraud, tax evasion and other financial violations. This would reportedly implicate the president himself and his three eldest children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric and Ivanka.
The investigations into Trump are coming from different angles at the state and federal levels, with some authorities eyeing his tax history and others concerned about his inauguration spending. Still, issuing a pardon before a charge was made would be suspicious and unusual, and a sitting president pardoning himself would be unprecedented.
The Daily Beast reported that Trump had "casually discussed" the "hypothetical" of pardoning himself, citing two close sources. ABC News reported that similar discussions have happened over the course of several months, with an emphasis on Trump's family.
Other reports, such as one by NBC News, suggested that Trump was discussing these pardons because he felt "embattled" in American politics, "not because Trump believes he or any of his family members had done anything illegal."
Similarly, The New York Times reported that Trump "is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution" after he takes office. If so, this fear is misplaced, as Biden has already stated he will have no hand in federal investigative decisions, according to a report by PEOPLE.
The outlet also spoke to law professor Jeffrey Crouch, who wrote The Presidential Pardon Power. Crouch said: "Legally speaking, Trump can pardon his allies and his family. It would be an abuse of the pardon power if he did so, in my view, but the checks on Trump at this point are fairly weak. He has already lost his re-election bid and has already been impeached. The strongest remaining constraint on Trump granting widespread clemency is the judgment of history."
A self-pardon from Trump might also raise eyebrows about his dedication to conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. Biden will take office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.