If Trump starts pardoning himself and his family, it won’t mean he’s somehow magically winning. It’ll mean he’s jumping out of the airplane wearing a parachute made of duct tape and baling wire, and he’s hoping it holds.
If Trump spells out the specific crimes that he and his family committed in the preemptive pardons, they’ll all be confessing to those crimes by accepting the pardon. It’ll be a field day for New York State, where pardons don’t apply to state charges. It’ll also be a field day for those who have been injured by the Trump family crime spree and want to pursue civil litigation. Also, preemptive pardons are legally flimsy and could get thrown out in court.
If Trump tries preemptively pardoning himself and his family without spelling out the crimes involved, it’ll make the pardons even more flimsy and thus more likely to get thrown out in court. While it’s an open question as to whether Trump’s pardons of his kids would survive, almost no legal experts expect Trump’s self pardon to hold up in court no matter how he words it.
In any case, none of this is going to stop New York State from bringing whatever charges it’s planning to bring against Donald Trump and his family. Whoever in the Trump family was going to end up in prison, will still end up in prison with or without a federal pardon. So what’s the point of even trying it? It’s simply the last card that Trump has to play, and so he has to play it and hope that it softens the landing just a little bit.
Of course it’s a huge signal of surrender. Nothing says “I’m toast” like a sitting President who loses reelection and then attempts to pardon himself and his family. He can keep whining all he wants about how he didn’t really lose. But once he tries to pardon himself, even many of his remaining Republican allies will have to start selfishly turning against him in order to keep their own careers on track.
So if Donald Trump wants to end things in this manner, that’s up to him. We can’t stop him from trying it. But it won’t magically save him or his family. It’ll just serve to march the Trump clan closer to the door, and further humiliate them on their way down.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report