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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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.

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."

Yes, but: The White House pardon system doesn't entirely consist of the president's free-wheeling offers.

  • White House attorneys are working through a more traditional process, even if it doesn't cover every person Trump has discussed, a source familiar with the process said.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Trump confidante Matt Schlapp interviews Jared Kushner last February. Schlapp is seeking a pardon for a biotech executive. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A flood of convicted criminals has retained lobbyists since November’s presidential election to press President Trump for pardons or commutations before he leaves office.

What we're hearing: Among them is Nickie Lum Davis, a Hawaii woman who pleaded guilty last year to abetting an illicit foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low. Trump confidante Matt Schlapp also is seeking a pardon for a former biopharmaceutical executive convicted of fraud less than two months ago.

Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."