President Trump is preparing to issue dozens of pardons before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in at noon on Wednesday, with the big question being whether Trump will preemptively pardon himself before he leaves office.
Trump has been meeting with son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump, both senior White House officials, to finalize a list of pardons he’ll issue in the final 24 hours of his presidency.
The pardons are expected to lean heavily in favor of the president’s longtime friends and political allies, as well as drug offenders brought to his attention through the administration’s criminal justice reform efforts.
The rapper Lil Wayne, who has pleaded guilty to possession of an illegal firearm, and former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), who was found guilty on public corruption charges and is imprisoned in New York, are reportedly among the first wave of pardons Trump will issue Tuesday.
Advocates for Julian Assange are pleading with the president to issue him a pardon. The U.S. is working to have Assange extradited from a London prison to face charges pertaining to government papers published by his firm WikiLeaks. Former President Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning over her role in the leaks on his way out of office in 2017.
Trump could also look to issue preemptive pardons for himself or his family members, including sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who have not been charged with any crimes but are bracing for a wave of investigations into their personal business empire and their political activities as soon as Trump leaves the White House.
Legal scholars are divided over whether Trump could pardon himself, with some saying it would be unconstitutional and others believing that pardon powers are broad enough to include self-pardons.
Trump faces potential legal jeopardy on many fronts and must factor in how GOP senators would view a self-pardon as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial over the president’s role in inciting a mob that stormed the Capitol to disrupt the counting of the Electoral College votes.
The president is also being investigated for a phone call he made to Georgia’s secretary of state, urging him to “find” enough illegal votes to reverse the outcome.
Trump’s business empire and personal finances are reportedly the focus of several investigations in his home state of New York.
Outside of his family, Trump has liberally granted pardons to political allies, raising questions about whether he will preemptively pardon his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani or his former adviser Stephen Bannon, who is charged with fraud over his association with a group that was raising money to build a wall along the southern border.
There are also questions about whether Trump would issue pardons for the dozens that have been arrested in connection with the siege on Capitol Hill, although he would face outrage for such a move.
Trump has already granted clemency or pardons to several individuals ensnared in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference, including Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Georgia Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan.
He’s granted full pardons or commuted sentences for several GOP lawmakers found guilty on corruption charges, including former Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Steve Stockman (R-Texas).
The president has also pardoned a handful of former Blackwater security contractors convicted for their roles in the murders of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2017. Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.