On Thanksgiving eve, President Donald Trump issued a presidential pardon for Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor, who back in December 2017 formalized a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to plead guilty to a felony count of “willfully and knowingly” making false statements to the FBI.  A federal pardon is within the president’s powers and serves to completely set aside punishment for a federal crime.

Trump’s decision to pardon Flynn is raising questions of who else he might pardon during his final weeks in office. It is not uncommon for an outgoing president to issue a string of pardons before departing the White House. Former President Bill Clinton went so far as to issue 140 pardons on his last day in office.

Paul Manafort is on the top of the list of potential candidates who might receive a presidential pardon. Manafort, who was a former chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, is serving more than seven years in prison on multiple federal bank and tax fraud charges.

Steve Bannon, who served as Trump’s campaign CEO in 2016 and later as his chief strategist in the beginning of his administration, is another name on the table. In August, Bannon was indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for defrauding donors who had given money to a nonprofit organization that attempted to finance a privately-built wall along the southern border of the United States.


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George Papadopoulos, who was named one of the campaign’s foreign policy advisers in 2016, is a third possible candidate for a pardon. In 2018, Papadopoulos plead guilty and was sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian intermediaries during his time on the campaign.

Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates, who took a plea deal and cooperated with the Mueller investigation, is considered to be more of a long shot.

And finally, the president himself is a possible contender for a federal pardon. Although entirely unprecedented, and potentially unconstitutional, that would not stop the president from possibly doing the unheard of and issuing a self-pardon.

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