Talk of President Pardoning Himself Draws Pushback


Discussion of President Trump pardoning himself for wrongdoing that may come out of the Russia investigation drew criticism from Republicans. Many said the President’s pardoning himself would lead to political turmoil, possibly even impeachment.

Former New York City Mayor and early Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani was asked yesterday during an appearance on ABC’s This Week whether he and the President’s attorneys believe he has the power to pardon himself.

“He probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself…It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by, ‘gosh that’s what the Constitution says.’ And if you want to change it, change it. But, yeah,” he said.

He quickly qualified his statements though, saying the political costs to such a move may be prohibitive. “I think the political ramifications of that would be tough. Pardoning other people is one thing, pardoning yourself is another,” Giuliani said.

The comments drew harsh criticism from other GOP’ers. “I think that would be a terrible move. I think people would erupt. I think even thinking about trying to fire Mueller is a bad move politically,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). “So I hope we don’t have to get to that point. And it’s hard to predict what would happen, but that would create outrage on both sides of the political aisle.”

“The president is not saying he is going to pardon himself. The president never said he pardoned himself. I don’t think a president should pardon themselves,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

Former Republican governor of New Jersey and Trump supporter Christ Christie said if Trump pardons himself, “he’ll get impeached.” A sentiment Giuliani would echo himself in a subsequent interview. The President pardoning himself “would just be unthinkable, and it would lead to probably an immediate impeachment,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press later yesterday.

The issue was raised by the President’s lawyers in a letter sent to Robert Mueller’s investigative team in which they were negotiating a possible face-to-face interview between Mueller and the President. Two of the President’s lawyers at the time, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, challenged the Mueller team’s assertions that the President’s actions may have amounted to obstruction of justice.

“It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired,” they wrote.

There is no clear precedent set as no president has ever tried to pardon himself so the answer to whether a president could self-pardon depends largely on which legal expert you ask. There is nothing in the Constitution that expressly prohibits a sitting president from pardoning themselves, a fact the President may have alluded to when he claimed the right this morning on Twitter.

“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? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!” the President wrote.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

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