If Trump loses his re-election bid, we can reasonably count on the period from Election Day until Inaugaration Day (Nov. 3, 2020 to Jan. 20, 2021) to be one of the most perilous, corrupt and weird periods in U.S. history. One thing that seems certain is that Trump will attempt to pardon himself.
It is an open legal question (maybe) whether a Present can pardon himself — in no small measure because no President has ever tried to do so.
But the U.S. Constitution does provide some guidance. On this point, it says:
[The President] shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. (emphasis added)
So, it is at least clear that a President cannot pardon himself from (or during?) impeachment.
As a result, if the Democrats were responsible — and had the balls to play power politics — the Democratic controlled House would impeach Trump after his re-election loss (during the lame duck period) – or at least ostentatiously begin impeachment proceedings. And the potential grounds would be every thing we reasonably know: tax evasion, payments to pornstars, election interference, emoluments clause violations, campaign finance law violations, self-dealing, etc.
If the Democrats did that, would it effectively stop Trump from pardoning himself on the way out the door? Would Democrats consider doing that? I know Republicans would do this if the situation were reversed.