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15 experts opine on whether US president can pardon himself

Vox – Sean Illing: “Can presidents pardon themselves? The answer, surprisingly enough, is not that clear. But since President Trump just tweeted that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself, the question is suddenly relevant. Trump’s lawyers have previously explored the potential uses of presidential pardons — including whether the president can pardon himself — as part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to a Washington Post report last July. And just this weekend, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuiliani said that the president has the power to pardon himself, although he insisted that doing so would be “unthinkable.” I reached out to 15 legal experts and asked them if the president has the constitutional authority to pardon himself. As it turns out, this is something of a legal gray area. The overwhelming consensus was that Trump could make a plausible legal argument that his pardoning powers extend to himself, mostly because the Constitution isn’t clear about this — and, frankly, because this is just not a situation the framers expected. All the experts agreed about one other fact: Even if Trump does pardon himself, that would not shield him from impeachment hearings. And most believe if he did make a move like this, it would be both an admission of guilt and a potential constitutional crisis. You can read their full responses [in this article.].” I chose one of the responses to share in full – as follows:

Julie O’Sullivan, law professor, Georgetown University – The text of the Constitution says that the president has no pardon power over impeachment. If the president were to pardon himself to preempt a legitimate investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing, it would have no effect on congressional investigations. In the debates surrounding the framing of the Constitution, the framers were very clear: No one, least of all the president, can be above the law. If President Trump does this, and it does not immediately provoke an impeachment inquiry — that is, if the Republican majority can excuse such a blatant disregard for the rule of law — then we are in a full-blown constitutional crisis. The Saturday Night Massacre pales by comparison. That was a stupid burglary. This is potential collusion with a foreign power over the most important electoral contest in the United States.

  • See also The Hill: Trump’s ‘pardon’ storm grows deeper – “…Critics, both in politics and the media, have accused Trump and his team of asserting a Nixonian defense that in essence posits that the president is above the law. They argue the Trump team’s approach could trigger a constitutional crisis, if the president follows through on the war of words.”
  • See also Politico – Democrats warn Trump on pardon powers: ‘You are not a king’. The president on Monday claimed the Mueller probe is unconstitutional and insisted he can pardon himself.
  • See also The New York Times – Trump and His Team Embrace a Vision of Vast Executive Power

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