Former President Donald Trump said that he had been given the option of issuing a blanket self-pardon before leaving the White House in January 2021.
In an interview with NBC News, Mr. Trump said he decided not to do that but not, he says, because he couldn’t have.
“Do you know what? I was given an option to pardon myself. I could’ve pardoned myself when I left. People said, ‘Would you like to pardon yourself?’” he told NBC correspondent Kristen Welker.
“I had a couple of attorneys that said, ‘You could do it if you want,’” he said without naming them.
Still, he acknowledged that “I had some people that said, ‘It would look bad if you do it, because I think it would look terrible.’”
Mr. Trump said he decided against it because “I said, ‘The last thing I’d ever do is give myself a pardon.’”
CNN had previously reported that in his last days at the White House, Mr. Trump asked several aides and lawyers, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, about his self-pardon power.
The former president and current Republican presidential front-runner also was asked whether he’d self-pardon in a hypothetical second White House term.
“I think it’s very unlikely,” he said, though he went on to protest his innocence and the legitimacy of the charges.
“What did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “You mean because I challenge an election, they want to put me in jail?”
At the time, Mr. Trump faced no criminal charges.
Even apart from the uncharted legal waters surrounding a chief executive’s self-pardon and future indictments, a president’s pardon powers would not even theoretically extend to state crimes such as those with which he is charged in Georgia and New York.
Though a Justice Department memo is not legally binding, its Office of Legal Counsel argued in summer 1974, in the context of the Watergate scandal engulfing President Nixon, that a president could not pardon himself.