A New York Times report indicates that Rudy Giuliani, U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has spoken with Trump about giving him a pre-emptive pardon before the end of the president’s term.
The Times, citing two sources familiar with the contents of the discussion, reports that as of yet Trump has not indicated what course of action he may take. Neither Giuliani nor Trump responded to the Times’ requests for a response.
The Times reports that just what, if anything, Giuliani may be facing in terms of criminal charges is not certain. Last year federal prosecutors investigated him over his business in Ukraine, and the removal of the U.S. ambassador to that country.
“He’s not concerned about this investigation, because he didn’t do anything wrong and that’s been our position from Day 1,” Robert Costello, his lawyer, told the Times.
A pre-emptive pardon would be very rare but has happened before, the Times reports; Gerald Ford, for example, pardoned Richard Nixon, a move that covered all of the latter’s acts as commander in chief.
In recent days Trump has pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, kicking off what is expected to be a string of pardons during the final weeks of the administration. Earlier this year he commuted the criminal sentence of Roger Stone, who was sentenced to prison after being convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers.
In 2018, Trump even said he had the “absolute right” to pardon himself – a claim many constitutional law scholars dispute.
In often chaotic scenes, Giuliani, a former prosecutor, has led Trump’s efforts to have the result of the 2020 election overturned, an effort which has led only to a string of embarrassing legal defeats and climb-downs.
Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential election with 306 Electoral College votes – many more than the 270 required – to Trump’s 232. The former vice president also leads Trump by more than 6 million in the popular-vote tally.
Trump questioned on Sunday whether the Supreme Court would ever hear a case airing his unproven allegations of widespread election fraud as more U.S. Republicans said a transition to a Biden presidency looked inevitable.
Trump’s comments in a telephone interview with Fox News suggested the Republican president was growing resigned to the results of the Nov. 3 election, which handed the White House to his Democratic opponent.
Trump’s team was dealt another blow with the completion on Sunday of recounts in Wisconsin’s two largest counties that confirmed Biden won the hotly contested state by more than 20,000 votes.
Trump’s Pennsylvania challenge was a particularly poor vehicle for getting to the high court because at its core it involves a procedural question about whether Trump’s campaign should have been allowed to expand the case, Levinson said.
“There is nothing for the Supreme Court to decide,” she said.
Trump said he would continue to fight the results of the election after he is due to leave office, saying: “My mind will not change in six months.”
Aides say Trump has discussed starting a television channel or social media company to keep himself in the spotlight ahead of a potential 2024 White House bid.
— with files from National Post Staff
Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis said the recounts “revealed serious issues regarding the legality of ballots cast,” without elaborating or providing any evidence.
“We want every legal vote, and only legal votes, to be counted, and we will continue to uphold our promise to the American people to fight for a free and fair election,” Ellis said in a statement.
Biden’s campaign responded that the recount “only served to reaffirm” the Democrat’s victory and praised Wisconsin election workers for their efforts.
Trump used his Fox News interview to repeat unsubstantiated allegations about widespread electoral fraud. His campaign and legal team have lost dozens of lawsuits by failing to convince judges of election irregularities in states including Michigan, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.
Trump was unclear about what he would do next.
“The problem is it’s hard to get it to the Supreme Court,” Trump said.
Trump’s legal team has offered conflicting statements on its likely course following a defeat in a federal appeals court on Friday in a case challenging Biden’s win in Pennsylvania.
Giuliani was reported to have told One America News Network that the legal team was still weighing which case might be appropriate to pursue at the top court.
The Supreme Court has always been unlikely to tip the election in Trump’s favour, and the president finally seems to be acknowledging that reality, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.