On July 23, 2017, President Donald Trump consulted his lawyer about looking into presidential self-pardons.
According to the Evening Standard, President Trump has been looking for ways to protect himself, his family members and his inner circle from suffering legal action due to the deepening investigations into his presidential campaign ties with Russia.
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading the investigation into possible similarities and links between the Kremlin and the president’s election team. Mueller has been warned by Trump to stay out of his finances and family life and to focus purely on the accusation of the Kremlin meddling in the last presidential election, even though the president himself has the ability to restrict Mueller’s investigation.
The president’s lawyer denied looking into presidential self-pardons, though Trump claims to have “complete power” to issue pardons and restrictions. The president has hopes to issue pardons on all things in his family and inner circle.
Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, has stated that whether or not a president could pardon themselves remains an open question, but the president has not had the same conversation with his outside legal team.
“With regard to the issue of a president pardoning himself, there’s a big academic discussion going on right now. From a constitutional or legal perspective, you can’t dismiss it one way or another.”
Sekulow also stated that the president’s private legal team is “not researching it because it’s not an issue.”
CNN’s Chris Cillizza reached out to Brian C. Kalt, a professor of law at Michigan State and the author of “Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies.” Their first discussion was about presidential pardoning power within the Constitution.
“Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 says that the president ‘shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the U.S., except in cases of Impeachment. It does not reach state crimes, and can’t stop or undo an impeachment,” Kalt said. “The power is broad by itself and there isn’t a requirement that a person must be charged or convicted before being pardoned. The only limits are in the definition of a ‘pardon.’”
Aside from Kalt’s explanation, Business Insider also published an article on presidential pardons.
“No president has ever tried to pardon himself, let alone been prosecuted after trying to pardon himself. No court has had a chance to rule on the validity of self-pardons. Nixon considered pardoning himself just before he resigned; his lawyer told him he had the power. Nixon decided against it.”
To add onto this, the article also stated what Sekulow essentially said as well.
“If a court ever did consider the issue, the decision could go either way because there are reasonable arguments on both sides. The president would have a simple case that his self-pardon was valid, but the prosecutor’s argument is much more complicated. There is admittedly no explicit limitation on self-pardons because a self-pardon is by definition not a “pardon.”
As of now, no answer has been reached on whether Trump can successfully pardon or not.