Offenses against the United States are subject to punishment, according to the Constitution of the country. However, the same Constitution gives the president a right to pardon the accused unilaterally, called a presidential pardon.
Trump presidential pardons recently came into the limelight as he pardoned his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.
Meanwhile, his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is still under home confinement, serving out his prison sentence.
Amid all of this discussion, there is one unanswered question. Can Donald Trump pardon himself to evade the laws after January 20, 2021?
This question captured the attention of the masses when President Donald Trump retweeted a Tweet from a Republican member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Matt Gaetz. The tweet said that the president should pardon every member of his team, including himself.
Matt Gaetz took on Twitter and wrote that “President Trump should pardon Flynn, the Thanksgiving turkey, and everyone from himself, to his admin, to Joe Exotic if he has to.”
Trump immediately retweeted this, which shows his future plans regarding issuing the presidential pardons.
Similarly, back in 2018, the president tweeted that he holds the “absolute right to pardon” himself, but he will not do that because he has not done anything wrong.
In December, Trump pardons can go to a whole new level as he is expected to issue pardons to his close allies. These Trump pardons are just one of the ways with which Trump is destroying America in his last days at the office. However, will this list include the name of President Trump? This question is bothering many Americans at the moment, and numerous legal scholars have also given their opinion on it.
What do legal experts of the United States say in this matter? Let’s have a look.
Does Trump need a presidential pardon?
Before exploring the possibility of Trump pardoning himself, it is important that we explore the reasons for which President Donald might need to pardon himself.
After leaving the White House on January 20, there will be dozens of lawsuits waiting for President Trump.
The Constitution of the United States protects Trump from legal challenges, as he the president of the United States right now. However, the situation will not be the same once he hands over the presidency to President-elect Joe Biden.
Donald Trump will face several new investigations after leaving office.
- One of the prominent cases against the president is the case of his longtime confidant, Roger Stone. Mr. Stone was arrested in January 2019 as a part of the Muller investigation. The case ultimately reached Trump, the central figure of Wikileaks, and the reason behind Roger Stone’s lying in front of Congress.
- There is also a hush-money investigation that Trump can face after his presidential term. It was revealed that Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid money to two women who alleged the president of sexual assault.
- The Manhattan district attorney has started an investigation into eight years of Trump’s tax returns and other related records.
- Federal prosecutors have also failed to find the source of $107 million of Trump’s inauguration committee. They are likely to get more evidence once the president leaves the White House.
- There are several other lawsuits concerning the tax and financial irregularities in the Trump organization and Trump foundation.
- Congressional committees are also looking into Trump’s irregularities and mismanagement to launch investigations against him.
Therefore, in simple words, there will be a whole bunch of investigations waiting for the president once he leaves the White House.
This can also be one of the reasons behind President Trump’s reluctance to concede. He knows there are many investigations waiting for him once he is out of the White House.
At this moment, it would not matter if the president can or cannot pardon himself; he will try his best to do so.
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The US Constitution and presidential pardons:
Article 2 Section 2, clause 1 of the United StatesConstitution, states that the:
“President … shall have power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for the Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
The interpretation of the Constitution is the responsibility of the courts. The United States Supreme Court has explained this legal language as the president holds power to grant the pardons, conditional pardons, conditional commutations of sentence, commutation of sentence, remission of fines, respites, and amnesties.
The Constitution does not provide the answer to our question since it does not mention if the president cannot pardon himself.
However, it has not said it the other way round either, that he can pardon himself. So, the language of the Constitution is subject to judicial interpretation, and only the court can decide the significance of the clause.
Moreover, no president in the history of the United States tried to pardon himself, so this will be a first-time scenario (if it happens).
Legal experts on Trump’s self-pardon:
Legal experts differ in their interpretation of the matter of Trump pardoning himself. Only a few experts believe that Trump cannot pardon himself under the Constitution, and any such act will be unlawful.
However, most of the experts suggest that the matter is confusing, and even if Trump pardons himself, he cannot escape the awaited events.
Legal experts say the following things in this regard.
- Philip Bobbitt, the Herbert Wechsler Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of National Security at Colombia Law School, wrote an extensive blog on the matter referencing his upcoming book Impeachment: A Handbook’ concluded that “such a pardon is not constitutionally permissible.”
- Brian Kalt, a constitutional law professor at Michigan State University, says that there is no clear answer to this question, but “he can try”.
- Jamal Greene, Law Professor at e Columbia State University, says that the Constitution does not explicitly say that the president cannot pardon himself, so the issue is subjected to debate. Greene also added that self-pardon would allow a president to commit the worst federal crimes, including terrorism and treason, leaving impeachment to be the only platform to judge him.
- Margaret Love, the former United States pardon attorney, provides a clearer answer. “The answer has to be no,” says Love. Love also refers to the US v. Nixon case that teaches that the president has no capacity to save himself from an authorized criminal prosecution.
Trump Pardoning himself: What are the other Options for Trump?
The power to pardon allows Trump to pardon his friends and family. Yet, he may not be able to save himself from the investigations that he is likely to face after leaving the office.
Even if Trump pardons himself, he still has to remember that the presidential pardon will only apply to federal crimes, as clearly stated in the Constitution. Even after this, he has to face state-related lawsuits.
Trump Pardon and the 25th Amendment:
Legal experts suggest that there is a way through which the president could pardon himself for federal crimes, and that is by using the 25th Amendment.
He could temporarily step down as the president and let Vice President Pence run the presidency. For this purpose, he has to write to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate that he is unable to carry his duties. Once done, Trump will no longer be the president, and President Pence could use his pardoning power to pardon Trump for federal crimes.
However, this is an unlikely scenario, as by doing this, Vice President Pence could also face a handful of lawsuits.
If Trump pardons himself, he will clearly indicate that he misused the office of the president, which will end his political career. This way, his influence over the Republican Party will also reduce drastically. Trump is also looking to run for the 2024 elections and if he uses presidential pardon his campaign can get a major hit.
The answer to the question is that Trump may not be able to pardon himself directly, but he can do it with the help of Vice President Mike Pence. However, the likelihood is still minimal.
The Constitution is unclear in the matter, but legal experts believe any such action will be unconstitutional.
Even if it were an option, it could still not save President Donald Trump from the lawsuits relating to state crimes, for which he holds no pardoning power.
Eli is a Political Data Scientist with over thirty years of experience in Data Engineering, Analytics, and Digital Marketing. Eli uses his expertise to give the latest information and distinctive analysis on US Political News, US Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and Racial Justice equipping readers with the inequivalent knowledge.