US President Donald Trump has discussed granting preemptive pardons to his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, his three oldest children and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
There has also reportedly been discussion of Trump issuing a pardon for himself, for any crimes he might be charged with related to his time in office — though the legality of that has never been tested.
Most experts believe that a self-pardon would be unconstitutional, and in any case would not protect Trump from the New York prosecutors investigating his finances and possible impropriety related to campaign finance laws.
“A self-pardon would be a fitting abuse to end Trump’s presidency. It would also be corrupt, illegitimate, and void,” said Democratic congressman Adam Schiff in a tweet.
Preemptive pardons are rare, but not unheard-of. According to the report, which cited two anonymous sources, Trump is concerned that President-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department could pursue charges against him and his family and is seeking to protect Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
Donald Jr. came under scrutiny for contacts he had with Russians over potential information on his father’s then-rival Hillary Clinton, but was never charged. It was unclear what concerns the US president had over potential prosecution for Eric or Ivanka.
Giuliani, who is reportedly under investigation for his dealings in Ukraine, denied the report of the discussions, which reportedly happened as recently as last week.
“Fake News NYT lies again,” he tweeted. “Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source. Hard to keep up with all their lies.”
Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, told the Times: “He’s not concerned about this investigation, because he didn’t do anything wrong and that’s been our position from day one.”
A spokesperson for Trump did not answer a request for comment from the Times.
The news came as a court filing showed the US Justice Department is investigating an alleged bribery scheme involving campaign donations to secure a presidential pardon.
The document, which discusses the legality of searching communications and electronic devices of individuals, including attorneys, is highly redacted, with all identifying information blacked out.
But it refers to a “secret lobbying scheme” directed at “senior White House officials” to gain a presidential “pardon or reprieve of sentence” for an unnamed individual.
The scheme, under investigation since at least August, appears to have involved lobbyists and lawyers, a well-heeled donor to political campaigns, and a person who is or was in prison and is hoping for presidential intervention.
The filing indicates that the lobbyists and lawyers contacted White House officials requesting a presidential pardon or reprieve, citing the “past substantial campaign contributions” and “anticipated future substantial political contributions” from a donor.
It suggests that the donor is making the offer on behalf of the person seeking clemency.
The document does not indicate when the actions involved took place, and, in the sections not redacted, there is no reference to Trump or his campaign.
But the filing was revealed amid speculation that, with six weeks left in the White House after losing the November 3 election, Trump is preparing to grant executive clemency to more people, after pardoning his former national security adviser Michael Flynn last Wednesday.
Trump tweeted late Tuesday, “Pardon investigation is Fake News!”
Trump has granted pardons or sentence reductions to several political allies, including campaign consultant Roger Stone, controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and Republican activist Dinesh D’Souza.