President Donald Trump has suggested to aides he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency, a move that would mark one of the most untested uses of presidential power in history, the New York Times reports. Trump has long maintained he has the power to pardon himself, and his polling of aides’ views is typically a sign that he is preparing to follow through. He has also become increasingly convinced that his perceived enemies will target him after he leaves office. No president has pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of such self-clemency has never been tested. Legal scholars are divided about whether courts would recognize it. They agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous new precedent for presidents to declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for crimes committed in office.
Trump has considered a range of pre-emptive pardons for family, including his three oldest children, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, and for associates like personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani. Trump has offered pre-emptive pardons to administration officials, many of whom did not believe they were in legal jeopardy and thought that accepting his offer would be seen as an admission of guilt. Presidential pardons apply only to federal law and provide no protection against state crimes. More potential problems for Trump emerged on Thursday when the Justice Department said it would not rule out pursuing charges against him over his role in inciting Wednesday’s violence. “The Biden Justice Department will not want to acquiesce in a Trump self-pardon, which implies that the president is literally above federal law,” said Harvard law Prof. Jack Goldsmith, a Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration. The only president to receive a pardon was Richard M. Nixon.