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As Trump considers pardons, Democrats push for his impeachment trial

As Congress looked ahead to governing under President-elect Biden, President Trump was said to be considering a volley of potential pardons before he leaves office. And Democrats continued to figure out what an impeachment trial for the outgoing president may look like. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    While Congress looked ahead today toward governing under a President Biden, talk of pardons was a prominent part of this final day for the Trump administration.

    Our Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join me now.

    So, hello to both of you.

    And to you first, Yamiche.

    We know, traditionally, presidents go out of office with a lot of conversation about pardons and commutation, and there's been speculation about what President Trump may do. What are you learning about that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Washington and really the nation sits on edge waiting to see what is expected to be a long list of people pardoned by President Trump.

    Now, I have been talking to White House officials all day. They tell me that they do not believe President Trump is going to pardon himself or members of his family, but he is looking at an array of people, including Steve Bannon, who was, of course, a former top White House official and someone who helped Trump win in 2016, as well as Sheldon Silver, a disgraced New York assemblyman, and even rapper Lil Wayne, who was convicted of a gun charge.

    Another thing to note is that the president, experts say, has really broken with tradition when it comes to pardons. He has not gone through the traditional process of going through the Department of Justice to vet pardons often.

    They also say that he's been a president, more than other presidents, who's leaned in on pardoning people who are close to him or who serve some sort of political messaging. So, he's pardoned Border Patrol agents who were convicted of unjustifiably shooting undocumented immigrants. He's also pardoned Charles Kushner, the father of Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.

    Another thing, the president could also issue pardons that aren't revealed. Experts call them in some ways secret pardons. These pardons, because the Constitution says that you don't have to — the president doesn't have to reveal who he's pardoned, there's some feeling, some worry that the president could pardon himself, and we wouldn't know.

    Legal experts aren't sure whether or not the Biden administration would be able to see if that pardon was actually issued. Now, there is no indication that the president is going to issue some sort of pardons like that, but it is something to watch as we await this pardons list.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we know the president is not going to be attending the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden tomorrow, but he is planning his own celebration as he leaves office.

    Tell us about that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right.

    President Trump is leaving office much like he started office, and that's steeped in controversy and breaking traditions. Here, the president is going to be the first president since 1869 not to go to his successor's swearing-in. The last president to do so was Andrew Johnson, who skipped Ulysses S. Grant's inauguration.

    Now, the president has said that he's going to have his sort of own departure party at Joint Base Andrews. There is talk of there possibly being a 21-gun salute, a color guard, a red carpet, all sorts of pomp and circumstance.

    One person that won't be there, even though there are a lot of people invited, including people who have criticized the president, Vice President Pence. His office confirmed tonight that he is going to the inauguration of president-elect Biden and not going to President Trump's party.

    That is, in some ways, a window into the last days here of the Trump presidency, where Pence has had to do things, like talk about the coronavirus and visit troops, while President Trump has not taken questions or been seen in public in days.

    One other thing. Trump leaves office, President Trump leaves office with his legacy really, really tarnished. The president, in the last few days, he has not apologized or said anything about the Capitol Hill scene. So, there are a lot of people who are also angry at the president leaving the office like this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, to you, Lisa, we know the Senate tomorrow is going to change hands, as we're reporting. The Democrats will be in the majority.

    They have got a lot on their plate. One of the big items, of course, right away is impeachment. What do we know about how that's going to work?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, there are many decisions to be made, first whether impeachment will happen simultaneously with, before or after confirmation of many of the Biden appointees.

    There's a chance that some Cabinet officials could be appoint — could be confirmed as soon as tomorrow in the Senate. But that would take unanimous consent. And we don't expect that.

    Judy, tonight, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic Party in the Senate, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, have been meeting to try to figure out a power-sharing deal, because, tomorrow, starting then, the Senate will be 50/50, with the Democrats in charge only because of vice president-elect Harris once she's inaugurated.

    So, the truth is, Judy, a lot of this still has to be worked out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fascinating. A lot of change going on at the same — all at the same time.

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.

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