Gingrich: Trump could pardon aides for ethics violations

A selection of Donald Trump branded chocolate bars.
A selection of Donald Trump branded chocolate bars.

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Story highlights

  • Newt Gingrich suggested that President-elect Donald Trump could avoid breaking government ethics laws by simply pardoning any violations by his advisors
  • Gingrich said Trump's businesses represent a unique challenge for ethics rules, but acknowledged it was an issue he would have to confront

(CNN)Newt Gingrich is suggesting that Donald Trump and his advisers could avoid the consequences of breaking government ethics laws by the President offering a blanket pardon for any potential violations.

"[Trump] has, frankly, the power of the pardon. I mean, it is a totally open power, and he could simply say, 'Look, I want them to be my advisers, I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the rules, period.' And technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority," Gingrich said during an interview Monday on the "Diane Rehm Show" on NPR.
Gingrich was discussing how Trump can deal with conflicts of interest related to his sprawling business empire. Trump intends to reveal his plans next month for how he intends to distance himself from his businesses while serving in the Oval Office and has said he may handover the responsibility to his adult children.
The former House speaker suggested that Trump presents a unique challenge for government ethics laws due to the scope of his private business interests.
"You have somebody who is a billionaire, and we have not really dealt with this relative scale of wealth in the White House, in some ways since George Washington, who may have been the wealthiest man in the colonies," he said.
Still, Gingrich characterized his suggestion as more theoretical than practical, and he acknowledged the seriousness of ethics issues for Trump, who campaigned on a promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington and rid the government of corruption.
"I don't think this is something minor. And I think certainly in an age when people are convinced that government corruption is widespread both in the United States and around the world, you can't just shrug and walk off from it," Gingrich said. "It's an issue that we have to think through, and we have to find a solution for."
The Trump transition did not respond immediately to a request for comment from CNN.