President Donald Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant preemptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law and to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and talked with Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Trump has told others he is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser.
Donald Trump Jr. had been under investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, for contacts the younger Trump had had with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but he was never charged. Kushner provided false information to federal authorities about his contacts with foreigners for his security clearance but was given one anyway by the president.
The nature of the president’s concern about any potential criminal exposure of Eric Trump or Ivanka Trump is unclear, although an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the Trump Organization has expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees by the company, some of which appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump.
Presidential pardons, however, do not provide protection against state or local crimes.
Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is also unclear, although he was under investigation as recently as this summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there. The plot was at the heart of the impeachment of Donald Trump.
The speculation about pardon activity at the White House is churning furiously, underscoring how much the Trump administration has been dominated by investigations and criminal prosecutions of people in the president’s orbit. Trump himself was singled out by federal prosecutors as “Individual 1” in a court filing in the case that sent Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, to prison.
The discussions between Trump and Giuliani occurred as the former New York mayor has become one of the loudest voices pushing baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, which Trump still proclaims publicly that he won.
After a version of this article was published online, Giuliani attacked it on Twitter and said it was false.
Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt c.2020 The New York Times Company