Legal scholars have said that there’s nothing in the Constitution that explicitly prohibits presidents from pardoning themselves, but there are some legal arguments against it.
So, could President Donald Trump pardon himself? To learn more, CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty spoke with PolitiFact California Reporter Chris Nichols to explore that question.
On the Justice Department’s possible secret bribe for pardon scheme and whether Trump can pardon himself
To add some background here, two years ago, Trump tweeted about this. He claimed he has “the absolute right to PARDON myself,” adding, “but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”
PolitiFact asked legal scholars about this for a recent article.
One of the major takeaways is that the Constitution does not explicitly prohibit presidents from pardoning themselves. There are some legal arguments against it.
For example, the Constitution’s pardon clause uses the term “grant,” which would typically mean giving to someone else, but no president has ever tried this. And because of that, the experts say no one really knows if the courts would uphold a self-pardon or not.
On how there is no sign that current federal criminal cases have been opened against the outgoing president
That’s correct. There is also no clear sign that the incoming Joe Biden administration would pursue any cases against Trump once he leaves the White House. But, again, Trump raised the topic of a self-pardon two years ago.
On how the president could legally receive a pardon
One possible scenario is for Trump to step down and allow Vice President Mike Pence to pardon him. If Pence agreed to this, experts say it would probably be a valid pardon. One way it could work is the president could simply resign, as late as a few moments before Biden is sworn in, allowing Pence to be president for that brief time.
And if all the pardon papers were drawn up, Pence could quickly sign them and they would become valid.
On if Trump could be pardoned for crimes that haven’t been charged yet
The answer is yes, Trump could preemptively pardon himself. Even though pardons are normally granted after a conviction, they can also be granted for crimes that have occurred but haven’t yet been charged.
That’s how President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon worked after Nixon resigned. Ford granted a “full, free and absolute pardon” for Nixon. It covered “all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in,” from the time Nixon took office in Jan. 1969 through the time he stepped down in Aug. 1974.
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