Trump Won't Pardon His Family Because They May Testify Against Him, Says Ex-lawyer

President Donald Trump will not pardon his family members or close allies because of the legal risks it might pose for himself, his former lawyer and fixer has said.

In deciding how to exercise his clemency powers in the final weeks of his presidency, Michael Cohen told Vanity Fair that the president would not be dictated by sentiment, rather "the first thing that Donald Trump is evaluating... is 'what's in it for me?'"

Trump has already granted clemency to Roger Stone and his former national security advisor Michael Flynn. The New York Times reported that Trump has asked advisers about "preemptively" pardoning his three eldest children. There is further speculation over whether Trump might use his pardon powers to protect himself and his associates.

But Cohen, who was jailed in 2018 for arranging payments to silence women who claimed to have affairs with Trump, said he doubted that the president would use his clemency powers to help his nearest and dearest.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, before departing prison on May 6, 2019 in New York City. He has said he does not expect Trump will pardon any of his family. Spencer Platt/Getty

"Will Donald Trump pardon Rudy Giuliani? Will he pardon Steve Bannon? Will he pardon Don Jr, Eric, Ivanka, Jared? Here's my answer: No," Cohen told the Inside The Hive podcast.

"Donald Trump cares for no one or for anything except for himself... that includes his own children. Donald Trump will only do what benefits Donald Trump."

Cohen said that if Trump pre-pardoned his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has not been charged with any crime, Kushner would lose his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"That means that Jared could be compelled to testify in a court of law or even have to appear before a hearing before Congress," he said, adding that the questions asked of him would be "against Donald Trump."

"So Donald is now thinking in his head, 'if I give this guy the pass to keep his ass out of prison, he may be putting mine in,'" Cohen said, "so the question again becomes, 'if I give somebody a pardon, how can it hurt me more than help me?'"

His view chimes with a conclusion of a paper by University of Missouri legal professor Frank O. Bowman III published last month, which said that a pardon "erases the Fifth Amendment privilege."

This actually "might make it easier for criminal and civil investigative authorities and Congress to compel testimony from the person pardoned," the paper said.

Legal experts disagree on whether pardons by Trump, including a pre-emptive one for himself, would be considered an admission of guilt in court.

 President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump at Trump National Golf Club on December 13, in Sterling, Virginia. There is speculation over how he will use his pardon powers in the final weeks of his presidency. Al Drago/Getty Images

Pardons would not provide cover for state-level court cases and Cohen referred to some of the legal challenges that Trump faces when he leaves office. These include an investigation by the New York attorney general into allegations that the president and associates inflated assets to get tax benefits.

Cohen, who worked with the president from 2006 to 2018, is suing the Trump Organization for nearly $2 million in legal bills during his cooperation into probes by special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees, The New York Post reported. Cohen claims Trump's company agreed to indemnify him for the legal costs.

By the end of last month, Trump had granted 44 pardons, which actually was the lowest number of any president since at least William McKinley, according to Pew Research.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.