Through his pardons of political allies, conservative advocates and others convicted of federal crimes, President Trump has spent his entire term in office sent indirect signals of his willingness to help his relatives avoid punishment.
And now, the president has linked this message to his main campaign promise – privately assuring aides that he would pardon them for any potential illegality as the administration rushes to build its commendable border wall before returning to the newsletter next November.
The idea has alarmed Congressional Democrats who are investigating Trump's potential obstruction of justice as the House continues to weigh whether to start impeachment proceedings after lawmakers return to Washington next month.
Rep. David N. Tsitsilin (RI), a member of the House Democratic leadership and the House Judiciary Committee, said any proposal by Trump to encourage subordinates to break the law by promising a pardon is "appalling" and merits further investigation by the group.  "Unfortunately, this is just another case of a president who undermines the rule of law and behaves as if he is a king and is not governed by the laws of this country," Tsitsilin said in an interview Wednesday. "He is not a king, he is responsible … I think this only contributes to the ongoing proceedings before the Judiciary Committee as we consider whether to recommend impeachment members against the president."
Trump on Wednesday denied that he had made this private assertion, first reported Tuesday night by The Washington Post. Yet a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity before the report did not deny it and said Trump was joking when making such pardon statements.
"Another completely false story in the Amazon Washington Post (lobbyist) that states that if my aides violated the law of building the Wall (which goes by fast), I would give them a pardon," Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon. "This is the Washington Post's sole purpose of humiliation and defamation – FAX NEWS!"
The mail is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, even though it is run independently by online retailers.
The wall discussions are not the first time Trump has announced that he has promised a pardon to his subordinate to do something potentially illegal.
In April, the New York Times reported that Trump had told Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McLian that he would pardon him if he directed his staff to refuse illegal asylum to migrants seeking him at the southern border. Trump later denied making it on Twitter calling it "Another False Story."
Members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to McAllon requesting information and documents about the incident; a panel spokesman did not answer whether McLean ever answered. The committee said in a statement at the time that "proposing a pardon to encourage a US government official to take illegal action appears on his face as an unconstitutional abuse of power."
Several Democrats said comments about Trump's pardon are a fair game to investigate as they continue to deepen the details of Trump's potential obstruction of justice that emerged from the investigation of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
"The fall is a period when we extend our investigation beyond the Mueller report," said reporter Jamie Ruskin (D-Md), who, as Tsitsilin, is a member of the Judiciary Committee. "Abuse of the power of clemency fits into our broader investigation of abuse of power by the presidency."
Ruskin added, "It is similar to a president who orders the executive not to cooperate with congressional investigations. This is an abuse of power and an attack against the separation of powers. "
Tsitsilin stated that it did not matter if Trump's subordinates ultimately followed their illegal directives.
"This is an abuse of the power of pardon, this is an abuse. the power of the president, and that is very likely illegal, "he said. "So whether or not anyone actually does it is the idea that the President of the United States, responsible for enforcing and maintaining the rule of law in this country, makes a statement that is downright horrifying."
Rep. Gerald Nadler (DN.Y.), chairman of the Chamber's panel, did not comment on the matter Wednesday.
Several of the 15 pardons Trump has issued during his presidency – a power that is almost unverified and which Trump has liked – carried with them a frank political tone.
The first pardon Trump issued as president went to Joe Arpayo, a former Maricopa County sheriff of Arizona, whose controversial immigration tactics provoked legal challenges and sentencing for criminal contempt of court. Trump pardoned him for that crime in August 2017 – less than a month after his sentence and weeks before he was sentenced.
In April 2018, Trump pardoned I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Chief of Staff of former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Trump suggested that Libby had been unfairly treated by prosecutors as she tracked the identity of Valerie Plame, an employee of the CIA.
Trump said at the time that he did not personally know Libby, but the pardon came as several former Trump associates pleaded guilty to similar charges against the backdrop of Mueller's investigation.
The following month, Trump gave a full pardon to Dinesh D'Uza, a conservative commentator who pleaded guilty to the illegal use of straw donors for a New York Republican Senate candidate.
As with Libby, Trump concluded that D "Susa was abused and said at the time that he was considering a pardon for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. The three were convicted of crimes similar to the allegations facing former Trump aides as part of the Mueller probe.
In May this year, Trump pardoned Conrad Black, who in 2007 was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. The billionaire wrote a lavish biography of President Donald J. last year. Trump: President like no other, who defended him against accusations of racism and praised him for "optimism to persevere and succeed, confidence to stand against tradition and convention, genius for spectacle and a firm belief in common sense and the common man. "
Trump is even considering pardoning – he tweeted in June 2018 against the backdrop of the Müller probe that he had the" absolute right "to do so and that his argument was supported by" numerous legal scholars. " (Whether Trump can really do that is up for debate.)
"More than one isolated remark, this is the model that applies," Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee , said of Trump's clemency trends. "To what extent he may or may not do the message he sends to the American people for his view of the importance of law and law enforcement."