This past week, President Donald Trump has stated online and to the press that he has the power to pardon himself.
“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” said Trump on Twitter. “In the meantime, the never-ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the midterms!”
This tweet came in the wake of a series of tweets made over the course of the week in which the President retweeted a statement which claimed that members of Special Counsel investigator Robert Mueller’s staff are involved with the Clinton Foundation.
Trump also went after the FBI for not informing him that Paul Manafort was under investigation, and claimed that Democrats colluded with Russia.
“I don’t think the president needs any advice on pardoning himself,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “He obviously knows that’s not something he would or should do.”
As far as the accuracy of the claim, there are legal scholars who say that this is true. Peter Ruckman, who before his death in March was a well-known political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois, was one to back up this claim. However, there are also arguments against its legality which include a Department of Justice memorandum from August 5th, 1974.
The Department of Justice’s acting Assistant Attorney at the time, General Mary C. Lawton, said that if the memorandum were to be issued and discussed by judges, it would be entirely possible that they would support the constitutionality of presidential self-pardons, at least in general.
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States says that the President “shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment” which is largely considered to mean that the President can pardon anyone for crimes against the country up until it relates to ongoing impeach proceedings.
If President Trump pardons himself from possible charges relating to the Special Counsel investigation, it would impede attempts to discover the extents to which Russia interfered with the election but would not shut them down completely. The Special Counsel would continue the investigation at a state-level since presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes.
A presidential pardon could not leave the President immune to impeachment. Such a wildly unprecedented act like presidential self-pardoning could even be considered grounds to launch impeachment proceedings against him. However, if that were to take place, it would be hugely affected by the partisan composition of Congress at the time of the self-pardoning.
“I don’t know the technical answer to that question but I think obviously the answer is that he shouldn’t,” said Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan in a press conference. “And no one is above the law.”
The reaction from members of Congress has thus far been divided. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) hasn’t taken a side in whether or not this is constitutional but has spoken about her fears that this could cause a political crisis.
“A president pardoning himself would be an impeachable offense,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a Now This exclusive interview.