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Some Speculate Trump Will Pardon More Allies Before Leaving Office


President Trump's made it clear that he's willing to use his pardon power to help out a political ally or friend. Just look at the full pardon he granted his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, last week. All of this has fueled speculation that Trump may issue a flurry of pardons to allies and friends before he leaves office on January 20. And NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is here to talk about it.

Hi, Ryan.


SHAPIRO: What do you expect we'll see in the next few weeks?

LUCAS: Well, there's certainly an expectation that Trump will use his pardon power again before he leaves office. Presidents do traditionally issue pardons in the waning days of their administration. Sometimes those pardons are controversial. Bill Clinton, for example, issued a last-minute pardon to the fugitive financier Marc Rich. That led to a federal investigation.

But Trump stands out for his willingness to grant pardons to political allies or to people that he knows. Michael Flynn, who you mentioned, is just the latest example. Remember, earlier in his term, Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He pardoned conservative author Dinesh D'Souza, and he commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone.

SHAPIRO: Who is angling for a pardon now?

LUCAS: Well, Flynn and Stone were both charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The president, of course, has made clear his disdain for that probe, so he could pardon others who were ensnared in it. One of those, of course, would be his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He was convicted of bank and tax fraud. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy, as well. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, but then Mueller's team said Manafort lied to them repeatedly.

Rick Gates is another person convicted as part of the Russia investigation. He was a key witness for the Mueller team, although Gates told me he doesn't think that should rule him out from Trump's consideration. Gates says neither he nor his lawyers have been in touch with the White House about a possible pardon, but he says he would happily accept one.

RICK GATES: I absolutely believe the pardons would be warranted. It's the president's decision ultimately. But I'm hopeful and would certainly be grateful if he were to issue one.

LUCAS: And then there is one other person who might be considered. That is George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

SHAPIRO: Those people are all tied to the Russia investigation. Who else in President Trump's orbit might face legal peril and might be eligible for pardon?

LUCAS: Well, Trump's former chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, has been indicted in New York on charges of fraud. Bannon and three other men are accused of defrauding people who donated to an online campaign to raise money for a southern border wall.

And of course, there is the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. He was under investigation in New York, where prosecutors were looking at some of his business dealings and his activities in Ukraine. He has not been charged. He says he's done nothing wrong. The New York Times reported this week that Giuliani has discussed a possible pardon for himself with Trump. I asked Giuliani about that today via text message. However, he did not respond.

SHAPIRO: And there's also a question of the president pardoning his children preemptively - or even himself. Is that possible?

LUCAS: First off, I have to make clear that neither the president nor his children have been charged with any federal crime. That said, the president's pardon power is in the Constitution, and it's broad. The classic example of a preemptive pardon is President Ford's pardoning of Richard Nixon. Nixon had resigned from office, but he hadn't been charged with any crimes. Now, when it comes to the president pardoning himself, that's a trickier matter. Trump has claimed he has the power to do so. That said, no president has ever pardoned himself. And legal experts say that this really is an open legal question.

SHAPIRO: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
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