Former President Donald Trump said Thursday that he discussed pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency but dismissed the option to do so.
“I could’ve pardoned myself. 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?’ I had a couple of attorneys that said, ‘You could do it if you want.’ I had some people that said, ‘It would look bad if you do it, because I think it would look terrible,’ ” Trump told NBC News.
“I said, ‘The last thing I’d ever do is give myself a pardon,’” the former president said.
While Trump wasn’t charged with any crimes while in office, he has since been indicted four times. He faces a total of 91 charges in four criminal cases – two federal and two state cases – in four different jurisdictions.
The front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, Trump told NBC’s Kristen Welker that it is “very unlikely” that he would pardon himself if he wins a second term in 2024 and that he did nothing wrong.
“I think it’s very unlikely. What, 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?”
CNN previously reported the then-president had been asking aides and lawyers, including then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone, about his self-pardon power in the weeks surrounding the end of his time in the White House.
A presidential self-pardon is untested and experts are divided on its constitutionality. A legal memo written by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel just days before Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974 argued a president could not self-pardon, but the legal opinion is not binding.
Additionally, presidential pardoning powers only extend to federal crimes, meaning Trump wouldn’t be able to pardon himself if convicted of crimes in state cases after becoming president.
Trump, who claims the cases are politically motivated and meant to keep him from reelection, has expanded his lead in the GOP primary, but is still devoting a large amount of time to dealing with the felony charges against him.
He most recently pleaded not guilty in the sprawling Georgia election interference case – which includes racketeering, conspiracy charges and soliciting a public official to violate their oath of office – brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last month.
He has also denied wrongdoing in the other cases brought against him, including one related to a hush-money payment to an adult-film star in 2016 in Manhattan, another involving the alleged mishandling of classified national defense documents and a third federal investigation related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
This story has been updated with additional details.