Donald Trump and Rudy Giulani discussed as recently as last week the possibility of a “pre-emptive pardon”, the New York Times reported.
A spokeswoman for the president’s personal attorney, Christianne Allen, told the Times: “Mayor Giuliani cannot comment on any discussions that he has with his client.”
Shortly after the Times published its story, however, Giuliani tweeted a denial.
“Fake News NYT lies again,” he wrote. “Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source. Hard to keep up with all their lies.”
The Times cited two anonymous sources.
Presidential pardons are a common feature of the waning days of any White House term. Trump has not conceded defeat by Joe Biden but he will leave office on 20 January regardless.
Last week, the president pardoned his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with a Russian official.
Trump had already pardoned political allies including Bernard Kerik and Joe Arpaio and commuted a sentence handed to longtime ally Roger Stone. Former Trump aides Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos and Rick Gates are all thought to be possible pardon recipients.
Gates, a former deputy campaign chair who also worked on Trump’s inauguration, pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators and was sentenced to 45 days’ confinement.
Last week, he told the Times Trump “knows how much those of us who worked for him have suffered, and I hope he takes that into consideration if and when he grants any pardons”.
Giuliani, a former mayor of New York, has not been convicted of any federal crime. But he has been reported to be under investigation by federal prosecutors, regarding his dealings in Ukraine and possible violations of lobbying law.
Giuliani’s own lawyer, Robert Costello, told the Times: “He’s not concerned about this investigation, because he didn’t do anything wrong and that’s been our position from day one.”
Presidential pardons pre-empting charges or conviction are extremely rare but not unknown. Jimmy Carter, for example, pardoned thousands of men who illegally avoided the draft for the Vietnam war.
Richard Nixon’s pardon from Gerald Ford after resigning over the Watergate scandal covered all his actions as president.
On Monday, conservative commentator Sean Hannity said on his radio show that Trump “needs to pardon his whole family and himself”.
Most observers think a self-pardon would be both unconstitutional and not likely to work. If Trump did try it, it would have no effect on prosecutors in New York state investigating his tax affairs and possible violations of campaign finance law.
According to the Department of Justice, presidential pardons do not signify that the recipient is innocent.
The White House did not comment on the Times report.