President Trump has suggested to aides that he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would mark one of the most extraordinary uses of presidential power in American history.
In several conversations since Election Day, Mr. Trump has told advisers that he is considering giving himself a pardon and, in other instances, asked whether he should and what the impact would be on him legally and politically, according to the two people.
Mr. Trump has shown signs that his interest goes beyond idle musings. He has long maintained that he has the power to pardon himself, and his polling of aides’ views is typically a sign that he is preparing to follow through on his aims. He has also become increasingly convinced that his perceived enemies will use the levers of law enforcement to target him after he leaves office.
No president has ever pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of doing so has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it. But they agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous precedent for presidents to unilaterally declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for any crimes they committed in office.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The extent of Mr. Trump’s criminal exposure is unclear. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, outlined 10 instances in which Mr. Trump may have obstructed justice but declined to say whether he had broken the law, citing legal and factual constraints on prosecuting a sitting president. Former Justice Department officials and legal experts said that several of the acts should be prosecuted.
The discussions about a self-pardon came before Mr. Trump pressured Georgia officials to help him overturn the election results and incited the riot at the Capitol. Mr. Trump’s allies believe that both episodes increased his criminal exposure.
Presidential pardons apply only to federal law and provide no protection against state crimes. They would not apply to charges that could be brought by prosecutors in Manhattan investigating the Trump Organization’s finances.