Who will Trump pardon next?
Allies and advisers of Trump’s have suggested pardons for many in his innermost circle, including his children and even the president himself.
With less than two months remaining before he leaves office, President Donald Trump’s recent pardoning of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, ushers in what many predict to be a flurry of pardons for those close to the president. Allies and advisers of Trump’s have suggested pardons for many in his innermost circle, including his children and even the president himself.
On November 30, the Justice Department officially released former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Executive Grant of Clemency. This pardon broadly clears Flynn of “any possible future perjury or contempt charge in connection with General Flynn’s sworn statements and any other possible future charge that this Court or the court-appointed amicus has suggested might somehow keep this criminal case alive over the government’s objection," the Justice Department wrote.
Just less than a month into Trump’s presidency, Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI about contacting Russian nationals. The lie and Flynn’s contact with the Russians led to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s later report provided numerous instances in which the president may have obstructed justice.
Ever since Flynn was put into the spotlight for lying to the FBI, the Trump administration has continued to push back against his accusers. Trump’s initial tweet notifying the public of Flynn’s dismissal concluded that nothing illegal had been done by his former national security adviser.
Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, has spoken out about the case, insisting the president’s pardon was justified because Flynn had done nothing illegal. In a press release, she stated, “The President has pardoned General Flynn because he should never have been prosecuted. An independent review of General Flynn’s case by the Department of Justice—conducted by respected career professionals—supports this conclusion.”
Presidential pardoning powers
The Flynn pardon has renewed questions over whether the investigations of those closest to the president were obstructed. These accusations started when Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, his close political adviser, to prevent Stone from having to serve a 40-day sentence because of lies he allegedly told to protect Trump.
Interpretations of the United States constitution vary, but it includes clear wording that the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
“Reprieves and Pardons” include the power to commute, or reduce, sentences after convictions. The language of the act is vague and while the president has received pushback for using his clemency powers liberally, there is little anyone can do to challenge him for doing so.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi offered a stern rebuke of Flynn’s pardon. In a tweet released soon after the pardon was announced, Pelosi said the act of pardoning Flynn, “who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with a foreign adversary, is an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power.” In a press release, Pelosi expressed concern that Trump would use his last days in power to “undermine the rule of law.” Additionally, she introduced the “Protecting our Democracy Act,” which would no longer allow “self-serving” pardons or commutation.
Potential Trump pardons
Since the Flynn pardon, speculation has centered around who may be pardoned next. Nine people close to the president have been indicted or found guilty of crimes, including his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his 2016 presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
The New York Times has reported that the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has discussed a preemptive pardon with Trump. What Giuliani needs to be protected from is unclear and, in the time since the article has been published, Giuliani’s lawyer and his spokeswoman have refused to answer any questions clarifying what the pardon would be for. Giuliani, himself, has attacked The New York Times, saying he “Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source.”
Trump and his allies are concerned that, once he gets out of office, a new Department of Justice (DOJ) will target his immediate family. Allies of the president have called for him to implement sweeping pardons to ward off potential criminal charges against himself and his family.
On his Fox radio show, Sean Hannity stated, “The president out the door needs to pardon his whole family and himself." He later added, “I assume that the power of the pardon is absolute, and that he should be able to pardon anybody that he wants to."
Donald Trump Jr. was investigated by Robert Mueller’s team for contacting Russians who offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. He was never charged. Trump Jr. also reportedly lied to federal authorities about these contacts when applying for his security clearance.
Jared Kushner is also feeling the heat due to having omitted his own contact with foreigners when he was being vetted for his security clearance. Under federal law, it’s a crime to provide incomplete or inaccurate information on security clearance forms. This crime is punishable by fines or imprisonment.
Trump’s allies have also encouraged him to pardon Eric and Ivanka Trump, despite neither of them being involved in any open investigations. Some speculate, however, that Ivanka may be under scrutiny for Trump Organization tax write-offs, so it would be in the president’s best interest to pardon his children before these allegations become court cases.
The president himself awaits litigation once he gets out of office. A pardon would protect him from some of these charges, but it would still leave him vulnerable to being charged for state crimes.
In New York, Trump faces charges of tax fraud, insurance fraud and falsification of business records. These same charges may also apply to Trump’s children who are involved in the family business. A pardon would not offer any protection from these charges.
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at firstname.lastname@example.org