Trump is reportedly considering preemptively pardoning as many as 20 associates before leaving office

Sonam Sheth
  • President Donald Trump is considering preemptively pardoning as many as 20 close associates before he leaves office in January, Politico reported on Thursday.

  • They include his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as his three eldest children, as The New York Times previously reported.

  • However, the president is said to be concerned about whether the preemptive pardons could look like a public admission of guilt.

  • Trump and his allies will face a slew of civil and criminal investigations on a federal and state level once he leaves office in January, and the pardon power does not apply to state offenses.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump is weighing issuing preemptive pardons to as many as 20 close associates, Politico reported on Thursday.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that among those people are Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as well as his three eldest children - Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric - and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

That said, Trump is concerned about whether issuing the pardons would look like an admission of guilt, Politico's report said. It's not unusual for a president to issue pardons and commutations in the waning days of their term in office. But Trump has drawn particular scrutiny over his circumvention of Justice Department guidelines surrounding executive clemency grants, as well as his tendency to show leniency toward his friends and allies.

The president and those around him are facing nearly a dozen civil and criminal investigations, and Trump will be significantly more vulnerable when his presidential immunity expires at noon on January 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

Trump has expressed particular concern about a pair of fraud investigations that the New York attorney general's office and the Manhattan district attorney's office are conducting. Trump voiced some of those concerns in a 46-minute rambling, conspiracy-laden rant he delivered from the White House earlier this week.

"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," Trump said. "It's all been gone over, over, and over again."

"They want to take not me but us down. And we can never let them do that," he added.

Trump is likely more concerned about the New York investigations because while the president's pardon power is extraordinarily broad, it does not apply to state-level or local offenses. Both investigations - one civil and one criminal - are focused on the Trump family's business dealings, the Trump Organization, and the president's personal finances. Manhattan prosecutors also hinted in a recent court filing that Trump could face a criminal tax probe stemming from their investigation.

Giuliani, meanwhile, is the focus of a federal criminal investigation by the Manhattan US Attorney's Office into whether he broke foreign lobbying laws through his work in Ukraine, as well as his role in the firing last year of the US's ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. CNN reported that FBI agents in New York have contacted witnesses in recent weeks to ask about Giuliani's Ukraine work as well as any possible ties to Russian intelligence.

Giuliani's links to Russian interests were thrust back into the spotlight in recent months after he coordinated a widely discredited New York Post story purporting to show "smoking gun" emails between Biden's son, Hunter, and a senior Burisma Holdings executive about setting up a meeting with the elder Biden when he was vice president in 2015.

Trump and his allies seized on the story and said it was proof that Joe Biden inappropriately leveraged his power as vice president to shut down an investigation into Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company whose board Hunter Biden served on until recently.

As Business Insider has reported, these claims hold no merit and have been debunked by witness testimony, intelligence assessments, public comments, and media reports. NBC News also reported after the Post's story was published that federal authorities were investigating whether the emails featured on the story, which the tabloid obtained from Giuliani, were part of a foreign influence operation.

The news came amid revelations that said US intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Russian operatives were using Giuliani to funnel disinformation to the White House. The Washington Post reported that Trump shrugged off the warnings and said, "That's Rudy."

Trump Jr., meanwhile, was a key figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. While campaigning for his father, Trump Jr. participated in a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on Hillary Clinton's campaign. Kushner and then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.

Federal law prohibits US campaigns from soliciting help from foreign governments or foreign nationals, but prosecutors decided not to charge Trump Jr. or others who attended the meeting because they believed it would be difficult to prove that the participants knew their conduct was unlawful, Mueller's report said.

The president's eldest son was also accused by Democrats of lying to Congress about the nature of the meeting when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He has not been charged with any crime.

Kushner, for his part, was accused of misleading federal authorities about his contacts with foreign officials when applying for a security clearance, but he was granted one anyway. He has also drawn some scrutiny over his financial dealings and whether they inappropriately intersected with US foreign policy.

Ivanka and Eric Trump were not ensnared in Mueller's probe, but The Times reported that some of the tax write-offs that the Manhattan DA's office is investigating related to the Trump Organization appear to have gone to Ivanka.

The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment, and representatives for Giuliani and Trump's children did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Politico.

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