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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

Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Hundreds of Biden staffers receive COVID vaccine

Screenshots of an email inviting White House staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, obtained by Alayna Treene/Axios

A week into the job, President Biden's White House medical team has administered the coronavirus vaccine to several hundred staffers — and aims to vaccinate all in-person staff over the next few weeks, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The new administration is ramping up steps to protect President Biden and all staff working inside the White House complex. The administration is also requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times.

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries to passengers and crew on Saturday, per authorities and a company statement.

The big picture: 141 passengers and 16 crew members were estimated to be traveling on the westbound Empire Builder train from Chicago to Seattle and Portland when eight of the 10 cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak said early Sunday.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.