President Trump isn't just accepting pardon requests but blindly discussing them "like Christmas gifts" to people who haven't even asked, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations told Axios.
Behind the scenes: Trump recently told one adviser he was going to pardon "every person who ever talked to me," suggesting an even larger pardon blitz to come. As with most Trump conversations, the adviser wasn't sure how seriously to take the president — although Trump gave no indication he was joking.
The big picture: The president relishes his unilateral authority to issue get-out-of-jail-free cards. Lately, though, he's been soliciting recipients, asking friends and advisers who they think he should pardon.
Trump has also interrupted conversations to spontaneously suggest that he add the person he's speaking with to his pardon list, these sources said. The offers haven't always been welcome. One source felt awkward because the president was clearly trying to be helpful but the adviser didn't believe they had committed any crimes. The adviser also believed being on the list could hurt their public persona. The White House declined to comment.
Trump argues the preemptive pardons may be necessary because the Biden administration will target his former aides, the sources say. President-elect Biden has said he doesn't want to pursue the Trump team, and he has vowed an apolitical Justice Department.
The backstory: As Axios first reported, Trump's decision to pardon Michael Flynn set the template for a wave of pardons to friends and loyalists. One senior administration official said the practice has since expanded, with pardons being discussed "like Christmas gifts."
Trump is just going to pardon everybody, because he not only thinks he'll spite Biden by doing it, he'll create an army of instant loyalists who will never, ever sell him out to Tish James and Cyrus Vance in NY. It won't work like that, but Trump doesn't care. He's going to continue to abuse his power for as long as he has it.