Since the president can legally and unilaterally pardon a person for federal crimes, some have questioned whether Trump can – and even would – try to pardon himself. Trump has reportedly asked aides about the range of his forgiving power since the November election, from which he lost.
Before Wednesday’s impeachment vote in the House, at least two White House-related figures – former Attorney General William Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone – reportedly warned Trump not to attempt self-forgiveness, according to CNN. But would he? What kind of forgiving power does a president have, and who could then pardon Trump? Here’s what you need to know about a presidential pardon.
Can Trump Forgive Himself? It may be too late to try
Trump seeking self-forgiveness would be uncharted territory, with no precedent and also no outright rule against it, aside from one. For Trump, it may be the only barrier that matters.
The Constitution, according to Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, gives the President the power to pardon individuals – “except on charges”. The language of the law is clear about this. The House has voted and impeached Trump, an action that is on permanent record. The next step is for the.
It is not clear whether the law would be interpreted to extend only to condemnation by the Senate or aswould disqualify the forgiving power. As of now, Trump still holds the office of president.
To get to the bottom of the argument, the constitution does not explicitly prohibit a president from granting self-leniency against prosecution. It comes down to the interpretation. Some legal scholars suggest that if it is not in the text, it is not legal.
“No president has the constitutional authority to pardon himself,” said Jared Carter, assistant professor at Vermont Law School.
While no president has yet attempted to pardon himself, in 1974 President Richard Nixon asked the Office of Legal Counsel for an opinion on the matter while entrenched in the Watergate scandal.
“Under the fundamental rule that no one should be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself,” said Mary C. Lawton, acting assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, in a memo on August 5, 1974 Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.
In purely academic terms, had Trump not been impeached and attempted to enforce the action before the end of his presidency, the only way to test the legality of a self-forgiveness would have been if he were charged with a federal crime. This, theoretically, would most likely have happened through Biden’s Justice Department after taking office on January 20. From there, the case should hypothetically make its way to the Supreme Court, which would ultimately rule on the legality of a self-pardon. . Again, the situation has now changed.
Could Trump, hypothetically, be pardoned by Pence?
This scenario would be similar to President Gerald Ford’s pardon on Nixon after his resignation over the Watergate scandal. Trump could step down before his presidency expires, making Vice President Mike Pence the president. Pence, in turn, was able to pardon Trump.
Importantly, the same constitutional law on pardon prevents a president from pardoning a person who has been impeached. Trump should resignif it were to take effect.
There are a few nuances here. First, the pardon applies to federal crimes, meaning that in this highly hypothetical scenario, a pardon from Pence would mean that Trump would not be held responsible for charges related to the Capitol Hill riot. However, he can still be convicted of state crimes, which are currently under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney.
It is possible that charges could be filed in Washington, DC by Attorney General Karl Racine. In an interview on MSNBC Monday, Racine said he wanted to charge those who spoke for the riot at a rally, including the president, “under the DC code of incitement to violence.”
If this scenario were to materialize – again, this is only very theoretical – an attempt to pardon Trump could sour some voters’ hopes that Pence would become president in 2024 but bolster his cause with Trump’s base.
And if Trump resigned and Pence immediately pardoned him, at least one attorney has suggested legal trouble.
“Theoretically, [Pence] could open itself to criminal charges for bribery or corruption. If he did, ”said William A. Burck, partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
Can Trump pardon the rioters in Capitol Hill?
Technically, yes, as long as Trump still retains his forgiving power. On the day the crowd stormed the Capitol, 13 people were arrested. Since then, police have charged dozens of others who traveled to Washington to participate in the post-war riot. Those arrested could be charged with federal crimes and could face up to 10 years in prison.
Trump could pardon or general pardon any individual accused of a crime to anyone who could face federal sanctions for the riot. There is precedent for this massive grace. When President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, one of his first acts was to forgive anyone who dodged the draft for the Vietnam War.
Could Trump forgive everyone as he pleases? Is there a legal limit?
There is technically no limit to the number of pardons a president can grant. Along with the aforementioned general pardon of Carter, President Andrew Johnson pardoned dozens of Confederate soldiers and wealthy Southerners during his tenure.
Who has pardoned Trump as president so far?
Trump has pardoned 70 people so far. This includes former members of its campaign and staff who made false statements to federal agents, the likes of Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos. He also pardoned women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony and early 20th-century championship boxer Jack Johnson.
Could Trump otherwise pardon before leaving office?
There are still a number of people Trump could pardon for the end of his presidency. The most likely individuals are his children – Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric Trump – and members of his staff, including personal attorney Rudy Guiliani (who is at risk of losing his New York State Bar Association membership), Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, Personnel Chief John McEntee and social media director Dan Scavino, according to a report from Blomberg. It is also reported that he could pardon a few celebrities, including rappers Lil ‘Wayne and Kodak Black.