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Published on December 28, 2020 2:54 AM

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Explainer: Can anything stop Trump from pardoning his family or even himself?
President Donald Trump on Wednesday granted pardons to his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former adviser Roger Stone, sweeping away the most important convictions from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

So far, Trump, who has 27 days left in the White House until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, has issued 70 pardons since taking office.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Trump had talked with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about pardoning him, citing two people briefed on the matter. The Times also said that Trump has asked advisers about the possibility of "preemptively" pardoning his three eldest children - Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump.

In 2018, Trump even said he had the "absolute right" to pardon himself - a claim many constitutional law scholars dispute.

Here is an overview of Trump's pardon power.


Most pardons are issued to people who have been prosecuted and sentenced. But pardons can cover conduct that has not resulted in legal proceedings, though they cannot apply to future conduct.

The Supreme Court said in 1866 that the pardon power "extends to every offense known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment."

Most famously, former President Richard Nixon was preemptively pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford in 1974 for all crimes he might have committed against the United States while he was in office.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter preemptively pardoned hundreds of thousands of "draft dodgers" who avoided a government-imposed obligation to serve in the Vietnam War.