President Donald Trump riled up his critics twice in the same tweet Monday, saying that he does, indeed, have the right to pardon himself as president — but stating that doing so is unnecessary because he’s “done nothing” that requires such action.
“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?” the president said in an early-morning tweet.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2018
The president then went on to blast special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia, referring to it as “the never ending Witch Hunt.”
In an interview Sunday With ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Rudy Giuliani — former New York City mayor and current member of the president’s legal team — said the Constitution does not forbid the president from pardoning himself.
“He has no intention of pardoning himself, but that doesn’t say he can’t,” Giuliani said.
“That’s what the Constitution says, and if you want to change it, change it,” he added.
Legal experts, however, say the Constitution does not specify if a president can pardon himself, and the notion has no legal precedent.
The only president to ever receive a pardon was Richard Nixon in 1974, and it came just weeks after he had resigned the presidency.
Nixon likely would have been impeached for his role in the Watergate burglary and coverup had he not resigned, and may have also been facing prosecution for his actions. Shortly after President Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon, he granted the former president a full pardon for any federal crimes Nixon “committed or may have committed or taken part in” during his time as president, saying the pardon was necessary to help the country heal the wounds of the Watergate scandal.
But the question of whether Nixon could have pardoned himself was discussed in a memo by the Justice Department in 1974, just days before Nixon resigned.Mary Lawton, former acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, said the president did not possess such power. “Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself,” Lawton wrote.
Legal experts said that if Trump would pardon himself, it would prompt a legal firestorm that would ultimately be brought before the Supreme Court.
“This is a fiercely debated but unresolved legal question,” Brian C. Kalt, a constitutional law expert at Michigan State University who has written extensively on the question, told The Washington Post. “There is no predicting what would happen.”
Louis Seidman, a constitutional-law expert and professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, told Business Insider that whether Trump can pardon himself is “very questionable” but said the real question was why Trump would even need to pardon himself in the first place, given the protection from prosecution his office affords him and the unlikelihood that he would be charged after leaving office.
Jeffrey Cramer, a former Justice Department prosecutor, believes the Supreme Court would rule against the president.
“The Supreme Court will most likely rule against Trump in that case,” Cramer told Business Insider. “What’s the alternative? The Supreme Court actually saying the president is above the law? A congressman isn’t above the law. A Supreme Court justice isn’t above the law. The executive branch is an equal branch of government. It enforces the law, but that doesn’t mean the president is the law. This is a legal question that cuts through everything and goes to the heart of the nation.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.