With the clock ticking on Donald Trump’s presidency, a number of associates have appealed to him in recent days in hopes of obtaining pardons before he leaves office in January. While some face imminent legal threats, others are staring down potential legal headaches that a presidential pardon likely won’t alleviate.
Among the names that Trump and his advisers have discussed as potential pardon recipients, news has reported, are Trump’s three eldest children — Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. Also included in the potential “flurry” of pardons that may be issued in coming weeks, news has reported, are the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who has been pushing dubious legal battles in hopes of overturning the results of the presidential election.
Pardons for any of them or for the President himself would be preemptive, since none of them have been convicted of or charged with crimes. But all have faced various legal challenges, and at least one, Giuliani, has recently been under federal criminal investigation.
Giuliani has denied discussing a pardon for himself with Trump.
The biggest question is whether Trump will seek to pardon himself, as he faces an array of possible legal problems that are likely to intensify as soon as he leaves office and sheds the protections of his position.
The most serious threat facing Trump is a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the financial workings of the Trump Organization, an inquiry that wouldn’t be affected by a presidential pardon.
Prosecutors have suggested in court filings that the investigation could examine whether Trump and his company engaged in insurance fraud, criminal tax fraud and falsification of business records.
Another potential case Trump faces is the possible revival of the federal inquiry concerning what prosecutors in the Manhattan US attorney’s office have said was his direction to his former attorney Michael Cohen to violate campaign-finance law by paying hush money to women who alleged earlier affairs with Trump during the 2016 election cycle. (Trump has denied he had affairs with them.)
In prosecuting Cohen, prosecutors cited the President as “Individual 1” in charging papers but didn’t pursue Trump himself due to an opinion by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that says a sitting president can’t be indicted.
The Biden administration’s Justice Department, however, could choose to reexamine Trump’s role once he leaves office.
One wild card is what would happen to a decade-long civil tax audit conducted by the IRS, which falls under the Treasury Department, and whether it could be escalated under a Biden administration to the Justice Department for review. According to The New York Times, the IRS is looking at a $72.9 million tax refund credit Trump claimed.