Trump's lawyers are exploring his pardoning powers to hedge against the Russia investigation

President Donald Trump's lawyers are looking into whether Trump can pardon himself, family members, and his aides in preparation for the outcome of the Russia investigation.

The probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 US election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign is led by special counsel Robert Mueller and has so far lassoed top White House aides, Trump's immediate family, and the president himself into a wide-ranging examination that has stymied the Trump administration for months.

RELATED: Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective

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Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
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Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
June 7: The 2016 primary season essentially concludes, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominees
June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
June 9: Trump tweets about Clinton's missing 33,000 emails
July 18: Washington Post reports, on the first day of the GOP convention, that the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform to ensure that it didn't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces
July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination
July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee
July 25: Democratic convention begins
July 27: In final news conference of his 2016 campaign, Trump asks Russia: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"
August 4: Obama CIA Director John Brennan confronts his Russian counterpart about Russia's interference. "[I] told him if you go down this road, it's going to have serious consequences, not only for the bilateral relationship, but for our ability to work with Russia on any issue, because it is an assault on our democracy," Brennan said on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
October 4: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange says his organization will publish emails related to the 2016 campaign
October 7: WikiLeaks begins releasing Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails
October 7: Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence release a statement directly saying that Russia is interfering in the 2016 election
October 31: "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Trump says on the campaign trail
November 4: "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Trump says from Ohio.
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The Washington Post reported Thursday night that some of Trump lawyers are also looking for ways to "limit or undercut" Mueller's investigation, citing people familiar with his legal counsel's thinking.

The Trump administration has already employed such tactics to a degree by accusing Mueller and his investigative team of various conflicts of interest. At one point, Trump alleged that Mueller was hiring prosecutors who openly supported his rival, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election.

The question of whether Trump can pardon himself of any crimes has been floated before. One of Trump's advisers told The Post the president "has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority."

"This is not in the context of, 'I can't wait to pardon myself," the adviser said, according to the newspaper.

On the matter of conflicts of interest, Trump has previously floated that allegation against Mueller as a possible reason for potentially removing the former FBI director from the investigation.

Trump appeared to suggest as much in an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday. On Thursday, the White House walked that back, saying Trump "has no intention" to remove Mueller from the Russia probe.

Still, the White House is said to be intent on finding fault in Mueller's investigators, The Times reported Thursday night, looking for ways to discredit the investigation or force some members of Mueller's team to recuse themselves from the probe.

Critics, including some Democrats, have described Trump's behavior toward Russia probe investigators and the investigation itself as unbecoming of someone who is innocent. Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Thursday night, "Russia's interference in the 2016 elections was an attack on our democracy. ... The possibility that the President is considering pardons at this early stage in these ongoing investigations is extremely disturbing."

"Pardoning any individuals who may have been involved would be crossing a fundamental line."

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