On the last day of his term, President Donald Trump released a list of 143 pardons and commuted sentences, the most Trump had ever issued at one time. Several legal experts are concerned that even though Trump’s family was not among the names listed, Trump may have issued “secret pardons,” or “pocket pardons,” that he does not have to announce.

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted, “Don’t trust the list.” He noted that Trump does not have to reveal pardons for his family until after they are charged with a crime.

O’Donnell’s claims were seconded by legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, who called secret pardons “reprehensible,” but not expressly illegal.


Secret pardons are considered “constitutionally dubious” by former U.S. solicitor general Neal Katyal, who explained that even if Trump has issued secret pardons, President Joe Biden would be immediately aware of them upon taking office. 

A self-pardon would have the flaw of implying guilt. If Trump did indeed issue a self pardon, and it is not upheld, his own upcoming Senate trail would certainly use his action to illustrate obstruction of justice, or the implication of guilt. Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani has publicly said that Trump and his legal team plan to plead “not guilty” to his charges of “inciting Insurrection” at the trial, so if he issued a self-pardon, it could be seen as acknowledgement of guilt.

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