Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Trump talked out of pardoning self and Republican lawmakers

President Donald Trump received an unsettling warning on his final Saturday night in the White House.

Huddled for a lengthy meeting with his legal advisers, Trump was warned the pardons he once hoped to bestow upon his family and even himself would place him in a legally perilous position, convey the appearance of guilt and potentially make him more vulnerable to reprisals.

So, too, was Trump warned that pardons for Republican lawmakers who had sought them for their role in the Capitol insurrection would anger the very Senate Republicans who will determine his fate in an upcoming impeachment trial.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and another attorney who represented Trump in his first impeachment trial, Eric Herschmann, offered the grave warnings as Trump, his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner listened. Other lawyers joined by telephone. They all told Trump he should not pardon himself, his family or any GOP lawmakers in a prospective manner unless he was prepared to list specific crimes.

Cipollone and former Attorney General William Barr both warned Trump earlier this month they did not believe he should pardon himself, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN last week. Barr conveyed this position to Trump before resigning last month, sources say.

Trump continued to bring the matter up in the ensuing days, even after officials believed the issue was resolved. But the sobering meeting on Saturday evening at the White House seemed to put the idea to rest.

While Trump often discards advice he doesn't agree with -- particularly coming from Cipollone, with whom he has a fractured relationship -- the message Saturday resonated. The conversation spooked Trump in a way few others have, a person familiar with his reaction told CNN.

Now, Trump will leave office muted and disheartened at being unable to wield the power he has cherished most while president. Boxed in by his own actions that helped spark the riots at the Capitol, Trump finds himself constrained in a way he mostly avoided for his entire tenure.

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