Donald Trump prepares slew of pardons for his final 48 hours in the White House

Ben Riley-Smith
·4-min read
Donald Trump will cease to be president at noon Washington, DC, time on Wednesday - Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
Donald Trump will cease to be president at noon Washington, DC, time on Wednesday - Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Donald Trump is set to issue a slew of pardons on his final full day in the White House on Tuesday, though CNN and Fox News both reported he would not attempt to pardon himself.

As many as 100 pardons and commutations are reportedly being prepared for the US president to sign ahead of noon on Wednesday when he formally hands power to Joe Biden.

Those chosen will join a list of people pardoned since the November election which already includes former Trump campaign figures, one-time Republican congressmen and businessmen.

Mr Trump’s willingness to use the presidential power to pardon criminals has spawned a lobbying drive with lawyers paid tens of thousands of dollars to push potential beneficiaries.

Among the names speculated as possible pardon recipients is Dr Salomon Melgen, a well-known eye doctor from Palm Beach, Florida, who is in prison for health care fraud.

For months now there has been persistent reporting across US media outlets that Mr Trump has sounded out advisers about the possibility of pardoning himself.

Read more: Who will Trump pardon?

Such a move would be unprecedented and likely trigger an immediate challenge through the courts, with the constitutionality of such a step murky.

Mr Trump has also reportedly mulled over pardons for his children. Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, the president’s two eldest sons, took over the running of his business empire after he entered the White House.

But both CNN and Fox News, two leading cable news networks on the Left and Right of the political spectrum respectively, reported that White House figures do not expect Mr Trump to pardon himself or his immediate family.

The storming of the US Capitol by his supporters earlier this month, which led to Mr Trump becoming the only US president to be impeached twice, may have shaped his thinking.

CNN reported that there had been plans for two days of pardon announcements before the assault took place but that is now being condescended into a single day.

Mr Trump faces a variety of legal pressures when he returns to being a private citizen on Wednesday, including investigations into his tax affairs and allegations of sexual impropriety, which he has always denied.

Details of the send-off Mr Trump is organising for himself on Wednesday morning, after he declined to attend Mr Biden’s inauguration as president, are beginning to emerge.

It will be held at Joint Base Andrews, a military airfield in Maryland, at 8am local time. There have been reports Mr Trump wants an ostentatious military parade for his final departure as president.

Scores of cheering supporters are also expected to be present, with invitations embossed at the top with an image of the White House circulating.

But even once he leaves the Oval Office, the political headaches for Mr Trump will not lift. The US Senate will hold a trial on whether to convict Mr Trump of the single article of impeachment, “incitement of insurrection”, that passed the US House of Representatives last week.

The duration of the trial, whether any witnesses will be called and when exactly it will be held were all up in the air on Monday morning.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, was yet to formally send over the impeachment article to the Senate, which would kick-start the trial process.

It emerged over the weekend that Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s personal attorney who has been at the forefront of his most controversial legal defences, will not represent the president at the trial.

Mr Giuliani had indicated he would play a role defending Mr Trump to the Senate, but later backtracked. There were reports the president did not want Mr Giuliani, the former New York mayor, to lead his case.

At the heart of the impeachment trial will be Mr Trump’s culpability for the violent storming of the Capitol on Wednesday Jan 6 which left five dead, including a police officer.

Mr Trump’s false insistence he won the November election and incendiary speech to supporters hours before some broke into the Capitol, when he repeatedly called on them to “fight” for his cause, were cited by congressmen who voted to impeach.

Mr Trump has rejected criticism of the speech, claiming it was “totally appropriate”.

Melania Trump, the president's wife, released a seven-minute video giving a departing speech yesterday in which she called serving as First Lady “the greatest honour of my life”.

She called on all Americans “to focus on what unites us, to raise above what divides us, to always choose love over hatred, peace over violence and others before yourself”.