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  • So recently, President Trump made an odd comment about the presidential pardon.

  • The pardons are a very positive thing for a president.

  • I think you see the way I'm using them.

  • And yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself.

  • But I'll never have to do it because I didn't do anything wrong."

  • As bizarre as that may sound, Trump isn't entirely wrong.

  • Since taking office, Donald Trump has pardoned five people.

  • The act of pardoning criminals doesn't create many political allies.

  • So presidents usually wait until later in their term to issue pardons.

  • The past two presidents only began granting pardons late in their second year.

  • Trump, on the other hand, has already begun to exercise his pardon power.

  • And with several people close to the president being investigated by the special council, Trump's

  • pardon power might come in handy.

  • Some argue that by issuing pardons this early in his presidency, Trump is sending signal

  • that he is willing to bail out any of his political allies that might be targeted in the future

  • by the Russian investigation.

  • So what does the US Constitution have to say about the president's power to pardon?

  • The Constitution provides specifically for the president's pardon power.

  • It says that the president may pardon individual offenses

  • federal offenses, not necessarily state offenses

  • and he cannot use the pardon power to avoid impeachment.

  • But as with most powers bestowed by the US Constitution, the presidential pardon comes

  • with checks and balances.

  • One of the principles underlying a separation of powers is that no one should be a judge

  • in his own cause.

  • So we have a system with a separation of powers and that separation of powers is one of checks

  • and balances.

  • The first possible check to Trump's pardoning power could come through the judicial branch.

  • When presidents take office, they're bound by the Constitution to take

  • theoath of office."

  • And in that oath, they make a promise to:

  • Faithfully execute the office of President of the United States."

  • That language of faithful executionthe idea is that this language migrated from private

  • law documents that limited trustees,

  • limited corporate executives, that they couldn't embezzle

  • they couldn't self deal, they couldn't use their powers to benefit themselves to the

  • detriment of others.

  • A future prosecutor could go into court,

  • Trump would walk in and say look I signed the pardon, with the papers then say look, look at my

  • signature, the way he always does. And the judge says sorry that piece of paper is not legally

  • valid, because it violated the part of the Constitution that requires faithful execution.

  • The next check to Trump's pardoning power could come from the legislative branch

  • from Congress.

  • There's a clause in the Constitution that basically says Congress has the power

  • to make laws to ensure that the Constitution is followed by all branches of the government.

  • So the argument is that if Congress has the ability to regulate the means they cannot

  • take away the pardon power, but they may be able if it's necessary and proper to limit

  • for example, corrupt pardons or illegal pardons that would otherwise be unconstitutional, for example.

  • It's possible, let's say the president pardoned everyone,

  • who was white because for racist reasons. For example, that would clearly violate the Constitution.

  • There's almost no way to get that into court.

  • The only response here can actually come from Congress.

  • The most obvious check to Trump's pardoning power, though, is one that Trump's own legal

  • team has publicly recognized:

  • "The president of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable

  • and it would lead to probably, an immediate impeachment.

  • Trump can pardon whoever he wantseven if that means shielding his political allies

  • from the Mueller investigation and even, plausibly, himself.

  • But he would almost certainly face impeachment hearings in Congress for doing so.

  • And as the Constitution makes clearthat pardoning power cannot be used to shield from

  • impeachment.

  • So in some ways voters themselves serve as a powerful check against the president's pardoning power.

  • But of course this all depends on Congress's willingness to move forward with impeachment,

  • should the need arise.

  • Elections are a crucial check because all of the departments are the people's servants, ultimately.

  • I think it's a tremendous political mistake myself for him to have urged that he has the

  • absolute power because no one in America thinks we have a monarch

  • whether you love Donald Trump or not.

So recently, President Trump made an odd comment about the presidential pardon.

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Can Trump really pardon himself?

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    Samuel posted on 2018/07/04
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