Day 1,412: Trump considering pardoning his kids; DOJ investigated separate bribery-for-pardon scheme

3 min readDec 2, 2020

The end of Donald Trump’s time in office has been nothing if not predictable: refusing to accept the results of the election, working very little, playing a lot of golf and ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic that is surging across the country.

It seems that the scandal-plagued Trump just couldn’t leave without more.

In what would be a biggie, the Justice Department reportedly investigated a bribery-for-pardon scheme.

The Justice Department in August investigated a potential “bribery-for-pardon” scheme in which a large political contribution would be offered in exchange for a presidential pardon by the White House, according to court records unsealed Tuesday.

The documents show that U.S. prosecutors were scrutinizing whether two individuals approached senior White House officials as unregistered lobbyists, and a related scheme in which cash would be funneled through intermediaries for a pardon or reprieve of a sentence for a defendant apparently in Federal Bureau of Prisons custody at some point. The status of the investigation is unclear.

While the current status of the investigation is unclear, that there’s even the possibility of a Trump pardon-for-pay is not particularly surprising considering Trump’s proclivity for lining his own pockets and making legally dubious decisions.

In line with the pardon theme, Trump is also reportedly mulling whether to preemptively and broadly pardon three of his children, his son-in-law and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to prevent the federal government from charging them for any wrongdoing upon Trump leaving office. (Trump’s pardon power has certain limitations, notably that it can’t be in exchange for a debt and has no impact on non-federal charges.)

President Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law and to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Mr. Trump has told others that he is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser.

Trump’s considerations aren’t based on mere suppositions of criminal investigations either.

Donald Trump Jr. had been under investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for contacts that the younger Mr. Trump had had with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but he was never charged. Mr. Kushner provided false information to federal authorities about his contacts with foreigners for his security clearance, but was given one anyway by the president.

As for Giuliani, there would be potential implications for Trump pardoning someone he owes large sums of money to (Giuliani reportedly asked for $20,000 per day to defend Trump). The former New York City mayor’s criminal exposure has reportedly caused him to speak to Trump as recently as last week about a pardon.

Mr. Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is also unclear, although he was under investigation as recently as this summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there. The plot was at the heart of the impeachment of Mr. Trump.

As the baseless claims of election fraud have turned up no evidence, Trump must see the writing on the wall. So proving many adages about power and money curing most issues, Trump is weighing pardons for his family and more of his allies for federal crimes.

1,412 days in, 50 to go

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