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Trump Weighs Many Pardons as Presidency Winds Down


JANUARY 18, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump is expected to issue as many as 100 pardons and commutations on his final day in office, but is leaning against some of the more controversial grants of clemency at the urging of his advisers, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Trump discussed additional pardons and commutations with senior aides over the weekend, according to another person familiar with the conversations, and the subject has been a major focus in the White House in the months since the president lost the election. The White House has been inundated with requests, and Mr. Trump has called advisers to solicit suggestions.

The coming round of pardons, expected Tuesday, has been the talk of Washington in recent days, as allies on Capitol Hill and close to the White House have traded tips on how soon the list might come and who might be on it. Mr. Trump is also working to firm up his defense team for his second impeachment trial as he heads into his last full day of the presidency.

Mr. Trump isn’t attending President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, and plans to leave the White House that morning and head to Florida. Aides have planned a send-off ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Since the election, Mr. Trump has issued dozens of pardons, including for his 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and longtime political adviser Roger Stone, as well as Charles Kushner, his son-in-law’s father.

In recent months, the president had discussed the prospect of pardoning himself, other members of his family—including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump—as well as his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. But Mr. Trump has been leaning away from those pardons in recent days as advisers have counseled him that they would be unnecessary, the person familiar with the conversations said, though they noted that Mr. Trump has been known to suddenly reverse course.

Some allies of the president have argued he shouldn’t risk angering any more Republican senators with controversial pardons ahead of his Senate impeachment trial. Democrats will have a hard time persuading 17 Republicans to join them in voting to convict Mr. Trump, but the president has grown increasingly worried about possible defections after 10 Republicans—a historic number—voted to impeach him in the House last week.

As of Monday, the House hadn’t sent over the article of impeachment, which would kick off a trial in the Senate. Democrats have pledged to move ahead with a trial after Mr. Trump has left the White House, as a way to potentially keep him from holding office again. House Democrats and the 10 Republicans impeached Mr. Trump last week, alleging he encouraged a mob to storm Congress as part of his effort to overturn his election loss.

Neither Mr. Trump nor members of the Trump family are known to be currently under federal investigation. Mr. Giuliani’s business dealings in Ukraine have been a focus for Manhattan federal prosecutors, though it isn’t known where that investigation stands. Mr. Trump’s legal authority to pardon himself is dubious; a 1974 legal memorandum said the president can’t pardon himself, but some legal scholars disagree and the matter has never been tested in court.

Mr. Trump has also discussed the prospect of pardoning his onetime fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, who in October pleaded guilty to illegally lobbying the Trump administration, a charge that stemmed from an investigation into an alleged multibillion-dollar fraud at a Malaysian fund, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Broidy was charged in federal court in Washington, D.C., in October and accused of failing to report work for which he was paid at least $6 million by the man accused of masterminding the alleged fraud, Jho Low, to try to influence the Justice Department investigation into the scandal. Mr. Broidy’s efforts included unsuccessful attempts to arrange a golf game between Mr. Trump and the then-Malaysian prime minister and to push for the removal of a Chinese fugitive in the U.S., according to the criminal-information document.

At the time of his alleged work for Mr. Low, Mr. Broidy was deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. He also had a top position on the Trump campaign’s joint fundraising committee with the RNC in 2016.

A spokesman for Mr. Broidy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other potentially controversial pardons—such as one for former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was charged in August in connection with an alleged scheme to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars from a crowdfunding campaign for a wall along the southern U.S. border—are considered unlikely, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Allies of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have pushed for a pardon, but he isn’t expected to get one, the person said.

Other high-profile pardons are also expected on Tuesday, including potentially for rapper Lil Wayne, who in December pleaded guilty to a federal firearm charge, according to people familiar with the conversations. Mr. Trump met with the rapper in October.

Presidents routinely issue controversial pardons right before leaving office. Then-President Clinton pardoned fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich, whose ex-wife was a major donor to the Democratic Party and Mr. Clinton’s presidential library, on his last day in office. President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, convicted on charges related to passing classified documents to WikiLeaks, just days before leaving the White House.

As the president and his aides deliberate over pardons, Mr. Trump has also been increasingly focused on another legal matter in his final days in office: his defense team for his Senate impeachment trial.

The president has been calling advisers for days about whom he should tap for his team, but few serious contenders have emerged. His legal team for his last impeachment—which included White House counsel Pat Cipollone, deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin and private attorney Jay Sekulow—aren’t expected to be on the team this time, according to people familiar with the conversations.

The president’s allies in recent days have urged him not to tap Mr. Giuliani, who urged supporters to pursue “trial by combat” before the riot began, for his defense team, according to people familiar with the conversations. “There is a general sense of, if you want to be removed, have Rudy on the Senate floor,” one of the people said. Mr. Giuliani didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The two men met on Sunday, and the former New York mayor isn’t currently expected to be part of the president’s team, another person familiar with the plan said, though the person cautioned: “Never say never.”

Mr. Giuliani told ABC News on Saturday that he would be involved in the president’s defense. A day later, he told ABC that wasn’t the case.

Courtesy/Source: WSJ