President Donald Trump discussed preemptive pardons for his three eldest children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump — as well as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
It is legal for a president to pardon family members, though it remains unclear what crimes the president might seek to preemptively pardon.
The power of the presidential pardon does not extend to state or local crimes.
President Donald Trump has discussed preemptive pardons for his three eldest children and his son-in-law, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Trump has privately expressed concerns that the Justice Department under the incoming Biden administration could target Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump, as well as Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior advisor at the White House, The Times reported. The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes under the US Constitution, including to family members. In 2001, for instance, President Bill Clinton pardoned his brother for a 1985 cocaine possession and drug-trafficking conviction.
It's unclear what Trump may pardon his children and other family members for. However, the pardon power does not apply to state or local charges.
Trump Jr. 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 Times reported that the president has also discussed issuing a preemptive pardon to his longtime personal defense attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The report said the two men discussed the issue as recently as last week.
Giuliani is the focus of a federal criminal investigation by the Manhattan US attorney's office over his dealings in Ukraine, as well as his involvement in the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, the US's former ambassador to Ukraine. The former New York mayor was also involved in coordinating a widely discredited New York Post story purporting to show "smoking gun" emails between President-elect Joe Biden's son, Hunter, and an executive at the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings.
NBC News reported that federal authorities are now investigating whether the emails featured in the Post's story, which Giuliani provided to the tabloid, were part of a foreign influence operation. The Washington Post also reported that US officials warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence operatives were using Giuliani to funnel disinformation to the president.
The warning came as Giuliani was in Ukraine looking for dirt on the Bidens. While there, he met with a Ukrainian national named Andrii Derkach, who has since been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, accused of acting as a Russian agent and spreading disinformation about the Bidens and the 2020 election. Giuliani has been reluctant to acknowledge Derkach as a Russian agent, telling The Daily Beast in an October interview that "the chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50."
Representatives from the White House declined to comment on the report to Business Insider.
Giuliani responded to The Times' report on Twitter, writing: "#FakeNews NYT lies again. Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source. Hard to keep up with all their lies." Giuliani's attorney Bob Costello referred Business Insider to Giuliani's tweet that "he had no such conversation with the President and that The NY Times story is false."
The Fox News host Sean Hannity suggested Monday that the president "needs to pardon his whole family and himself because they want this witch hunt to go on in perpetuity."
"They're so full of rage and insanity against the president," Hannity said during his radio program.
Last week, the president pardoned his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI in December 2017 as part of the Russia investigation. Trump also commuted the sentence of his former advisor Roger Stone in July.
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