Trump Will Pardon Everybody (Or Almost Everybody)

by Bob Schwartz

The power to pardon has been used by a number of presidents, but the full extent of the power has been rarely tested and litigated. So we don’t know definitively how far that power reaches.

It definitely includes the power to pardon people for federal (not state) crimes that have been committed or may have been committed. The best thinking (again, not litigated) is that the president does not have to wait until a crime has been charged or tried. He can pardon in advance, preemptively. And the president can issue a blanket pardon covering an unlimited number of people.

A best guess is that Trump would love to pardon everybody, or almost everybody, who might be caught in the net of the special investigation. His public rationale would be that the only way to protect innocent people from a witch hunt by a powerful witch hunter is to offer this extraordinary shield. His actual rationale is to keep those people from being charged, tried and pressured into revealing information about Trump.

He has almost certainly asked about doing this, and been told about potential pitfalls—prices to be paid.

There is a thought that his pardon of those who might provide evidence in the ongoing investigation could be considered obstruction of justice. Of course, that charge will have to wait until he is out of office, since a sitting president cannot be indicted. Plus, he can pardon himself for any federal crimes, including that. So that would not stop Trump.

There is also a thought that a blanket pardon—or even selective pardons—might move Republicans in Congress closer to impeachment. Under normal circumstances, this might seem an obvious outcome. But nothing is normal, and no one can tell what Republicans might do or say (or not do or say) in response to pardons. So that would not stop Trump.

Which is why it is possible, even likely, that Trump will round up the usual suspects, starting with his family and extending out to others in his circle, and absolve them through pardons, much sooner than later. If that seems so absurd that it is impossible, then you haven’t been paying attention.