An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that a federal pardon erases the record of a conviction. In fact, people who received pardons must still disclose their convictions.
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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is preparing to pardon or commute the sentences of more than 100 people in his final hours in office, decisions that are expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the plans.
Trump met Sunday with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka Trump and other aides for a significant amount of the day to review a long list of pardon requests and discuss lingering questions about their appeals, according to the people briefed on the meeting. The president was personally engaged with the details of specific cases, one person said.
In the past week, Trump has been consumed with the question of whether to issue preemptive pardons to his adult children, top aides and himself, said the people familiar with discussions.
But it remains unclear whether he will make such a move. Although he has mused about the possibility, no decisions have been reached, and some advisers have warned against using his pardon power to benefit himself.
Neither Trump nor his children have been charged with crimes, and they are not known to be under federal investigation.
But the question of a presidential self-pardon has become more urgent and controversial since the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by the president’s supporters. Some aides think Trump could face criminal liability for riling the crowd, some members of which eventually rioted.
Others think a self-pardon, never attempted by a president, would be of dubious constitutionality, anger Senate Republicans preparing to serve as key jurors at Trump’s impeachment trial and amount to an admission of guilt that could be used against Trump in potential civil litigation related to the Capitol attack.
White House spokesman Judd Deere declined to comment, saying his office does not discuss pardons.
People familiar with the discussions said many of the pardons and commutations Trump is expected to issue in his final days will be uncontroversial.
But it remains unknown whether he will grant clemency to Steve Bannon, his former campaign adviser, who was charged last year with defrauding donors to a private fundraising effort for construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, or his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, whose consulting business has come under scrutiny as part of an investigation that led to charges against two of his associates.
Another person under consideration for a pardon is the rapper Lil Wayne, administration officials said.
The news of Trump’s intention to make a slew of final pardons and commutations in the coming days was first reported by CNN.
The president has been besieged by lobbyists and lawyers for well-heeled clients who are seeking to have their criminal convictions pardoned, as well as by advocates for criminal justice policy changes, who argue that their clients were wrongly convicted or were given unfair sentences and deserve to be freed from prison.
Trump has told advisers for weeks that he wants to be liberal with pardons before leaving office. Aides have said the ability to grant clemency is a perk of the job Trump has particularly relished because the Constitution hands the power to the president alone.
But the president’s review of pardon candidates had been delayed by the intensifying dysfunction inside the White House since the November election and Trump’s intense focus on trying to challenge and undermine the results, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Some candidates were told last week by the White House Counsel’s Office that no pardons could be granted that were not finalized by Friday. Then word of the president’s last-minute weekend review and preliminary decisions to grant numerous pardons and commutations began to trickle out.
Trump has granted clemency to 94 people, including 49 he issued in the week before Christmas – mostly to friends and political allies.
They have included people who had been convicted in the special counsel investigation that dominated his first two years in office, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime confidant Roger Stone. Just before Thanksgiving, he pardoned Michael Flynn, who had briefly served as Trump’s first national security adviser and was later accused of lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in Trump’s 2016 election win.
Other Trump pardons issued in the closing weeks of his time in office have gone to Charles Kushner – the father of his son-in-law – as well as three Republican former members of Congress and four military contractors involved in the killing of unarmed civilians during the Iraq War.
About 14,000 people have filed petitions for pardons and commutations. For years, criminal justice advocates have criticized Republican and Democratic administrations alike for backlogs that left thousands of rehabilitated people seeking mercy.
Trump has moved especially slowly in acting on pending petitions. Rather than consult with the Justice Department’s pardon attorney for recommendations, he has routinely gone around the formal process and sought advice about pardons from a circle of friends, lobbyists and lawmakers.
Many of those to whom he has shown presidential mercy have not filed applications with the Justice Department and violate rules the department normally imposes as preconditions for clemency, which include that people generally first acknowledge their crimes and show remorse.
Even when Trump has granted clemency to people who are not politically connected, they have often come to his attention through his favored voices in the field of criminal justice policy.
A number of ordinary people granted clemency have been recommended to the president by Alice Johnson, whose own prison sentence after a drug conviction was commuted by Trump in 2018 after lobbying by the celebrity Kim Kardashian. Johnson later received a full pardon after speaking at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
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The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.