U.S. President Donald Trump has begun exploring the presidential pardoning powers in recent discussions with his lawyers as he seeks to influence or control the Russian investigation.
According to a report from the Washington Post, sources inside the White House have said that Trump has been exploring the avenues of presidential pardon for himself and his family in relation to the investigation into potential ties to the Russian government.
Another source said that Trump is merely curious about the pardoning powers and is trying to understand the full scope of the investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
"This is not in the context of ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’" the White House adviser said.
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As for Mueller's investigation, Trump's lawyers have begun compiling a list of Mueller's conflicts of interests in relation to the case, seeking to slow down or impede Mueller's investigative progress. Mueller was a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department and can be removed should a conflict of interest arise.
Lawyers have looked into donations from Mueller's team to the Democratic Party, his work for previous clients, and his close relationship with former FBI Director James Comey, according to The New York Times.
Other advisers have noted that Trump is particularly displeased that Mueller's probe could soon nose into his personal and family finances, according to the Washington Post. He was also unhappy when he learned that Mueller would have access to several years of Trump's tax returns.
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Lawyers from the Trump team are pushing back against the availability of tax returns in relation to the investigation, saying that the focus of the probe should be on investigating Russian ties and not Trump's personal finances. They have made clear that they will push back against any "drifting" of the investigation into matters not directly related to the original purpose of the investigation.
"If you’re looking at Russian collusion, the president’s tax returns would be outside that investigation,” an adviser said.
Mueller recently ordered the White House to save all documents relating to the June 2016 meeting between members of the Trump team and a Russian lawyer, according to CNN. During the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. reportedly sought to find information on then-rival candidate Hillary Clinton.
As for presidential pardon powers in regards to Trump, there is no legal precedent for a president attempting to pardon himself, according to the Washington Post.
"There is no predicting what would happen,” said Brian C. Kalt, a constitutional law expert at Michigan State University.