A couple of nights ago my family and I joked about the ridiculous idea that Trump could pardon himself. After all, he is the president and has the power to pardon most people. He will likely try to use that power to pardon his children. Could he actually pardon himself?
Imagine my surprise the next morning when I saw an article in the Washington Post about Trump’s legal team looking into that very possibility. That is a very scary idea. If a president could pardon himself then that would free up a whole range of illegal activities the president could engage in knowing that there would be no penalty for his actions. That is a serious threat to our democracy. There would be no checks and balances left. But according to the Washington Post’s Jonathan Turley who is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, Trump can pardon himself. Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, states that the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/yes-trump-can-legally-pardon-himself-or-his-family-no-he-shouldnt/2017/07/21/6134fb12-6e2d-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html?utm_term=.db3aeb4ff84d . Unbelievable!
However, other legal experts have a different opinion. An article in the Washington Post by “Laurence H. Tribe who is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, was chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007 and is vice-chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)”, Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011 and is chair of CREW” wrote that the pardon provision of the constitution strictly prohibits anyone, including the president from ruling in his own criminal case. They cite examples going all the way back to 1610. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/no-trump-cant-pardon-himself-the-constitution-tells-us-so/2017/07/21/f3445d74-6e49-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html?utm_term=.1adba766e219 I am fervently hoping that Jonathon Turley is wrong.
I am sure that Trump’s legal team will be looking for any reason they can use to discredit Mueller’s investigation. Various press sources write that Trump’s legal team is looking into the possibility that Mueller and members of his team have conflict of interest problems and therefore are not able to discharge their duties properly. Trump’s team is also trying very hard to prevent Mueller from looking into Trump’s taxes by threat and innuendo. So we continue to ask: what is Trump hiding in his taxes that could be illegal or impeachable.
We have scary days ahead of us. Threats to our constitution are threats to the United States. Trump must not be allowed to pardon himself, but I am sure that he will try.