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Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself

Jan. 20, 2021. EXCLUSIVE TO THE HILL: According to official documents obtained by our team of White House correspondents, President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE’s last official act as president, just minutes before leaving the White House to head directly for Mar-A-Lago, pointedly boycotting incoming President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden offers support to union organizing efforts Senate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits MORE’s Inauguration, was to issue one final presidential pardon.

In a brief written statement, Trump said, “Under absolute powers bestowed on me as president under Article II of the Constitution, I am awarding a full prospective, presidential pardon to the person who has been the most unfairly investigated and persecuted by our corrupt system of justice: Donald J. Trump.”

Donald Trump pardons himself? Don’t laugh. Admit it. You know as well as I, that’s exactly where this whole clown show is headed. I’m not a betting man, but I’d bet the ranch on this one: that somewhere in White House counsel Pat Cipollone’s office is a file on presidential self-pardons. The historical and legal research has already been done. The plan’s already in place. And the commutation of Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDOJ investigating whether Alex Jones, Roger Stone played role in Jan. 6 riots: WaPo Nearly a quarter of Trump's Facebook posts in 2020 included misinformation: analysis Federal prosecutors investigated Proud Boys ties to Roger Stone in 2019 case: CNN MORE is only Trump’s first step in carrying out that plan.

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A president pardoning himself? Don’t laugh. While that issue’s never been addressed by the Supreme Court, Trump’s not the first one to think about it. He’s already said Article II “allows me to do whatever I want.” Richard Nixon’s White House lawyers seriously considered the possibility, but Nixon decided to resign before being indicted with a crime. In 1998, however, during the Clinton impeachment hearings, House Judiciary Committee member Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (R-Va.) stated: “The prevailing opinion is that the president can pardon himself.”

But wait, White House officials could even be pardoned for crimes they haven’t even been charged with yet? Again, don’t laugh. It’s already happened. One month after he resigned, Gerald Ford gave Nixon a “full, free and absolute pardon” for all federal crimes he “committed or may have committed” during his presidency  thereby making it impossible to charge him with anything. And, in 1992, shortly before leaving office, President George H.W. Bush pulled the rug out from under special counsel Lawrence E. Walsh by granting a full pardon to six Reagan officials, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, under investigation in the Iran-Contra affair. Walsh had no choice but to drop his case.

Most Americans don’t understand that, for Donald Trump, the stakes here could not be higher. For him, what’s at stake is much greater than simply losing the White House. What’s at stake is losing his freedom. Trump knows that, with Joe Biden in the White House and his ability to hide under the cloak of presidential immunity no longer possible, he could well be indicted for crimes identified in the Mueller report and the House impeachment. His post-presidential days could be spent in prison, not on the golf course. So he’s adopted a three-part strategy to deny that possibility.

First step: Deny the legitimacy of the Trump-Russia investigation by branding it a Democratically inspired “witch hunt.” Blame it on Ukraine, instead. Get Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPortman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents MORE (R-S.C.) to hold Senate hearings. Tell Bill Barr to conduct his own Justice Department investigation. All underway.

Second step: Do whatever’s necessary to secure the loyalty of anybody on the inside who could tell the truth. Buy Roger Stone’s silence with a commutation. Promise a pardon to Michael Flynn, if he needs it. Fire the U.S. attorney for New York to keep Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Biden administration buys 100,000 doses of Lilly antibody drug NAACP president accuses Trump of having operated under 'white supremacist doctrine' MORE from having to testify under oath. Again, all underway.

Trump’s third and absolutely certain final step: Get ready to pardon himself. He knows he has to do it. He will do it. It’s not a question of if, but of when.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”