With all this turmoil regarding the insanely illegal Georgia election
coercion conference call, The topic of Trump pardoning himself comes to the forefront of discussion. Would it be possible for Trump to pardon himself? If yes, would he do it?
Article II, Section 2, Clause 1:
The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
– US Constitution
A US president has the power to pardon anyone for no given reason. I write ‘no given reason’ instead of ‘for any reason’; the implication is that the reason for the pardon isn’t considered at all in the disposition of the pardoned offenses or potential future offenses. A presidential pardon is possible for any Federal crime committed before being uncovered or prosecuted.
The presidential pardon power is unlimited as defined in the US Constitution. Trump himself has already stated he can pardon himself, regardless of how unofficial Twitter might be.
However, during the president Richard Nixon/Watergate period, the US Department of Justice issued a non-binding memorandum stating that a US president cannot pardon him or herself. It was very likely that president Nixon might well try to pardon himself, so the Justice Department acted quickly and issued their memorandum three days before Nixon’s resignation on August 8th, 1974. One month later, on September 8th, newly installed President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon.
Ford’s pardon of Nixon seems quaint by today’s standards. In the official pardon letter, Ford writes:
“It is believed that a trial of Richard Nixon, if it became necessary, could not fairly begin until or a year or more has elapsed. In the meantime, the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.”
I’m sure any one of the dozen or so Trump scandals in the last four years would rise above any trial in its destructive effect on America’s tranquility, where 74,216,721 people voted for Trump, and 40% of the people don’t trust the Covid vaccine. Let us not forget Trump University or the Trump Foundation legal settlements. America would be fine if it decided to prosecute Trump, which it absolutely should do.
My best guess considering all the input we have from four years of outrageousness, is that Trump will pardon himself. I think he will issue pardons to his close advisors, including his family that are part of his administration and campaign, including his wife, Melania. I suspect the pardons will happen late on Thursday, January 14th.
Interestingly, Trump has pardoned far fewer people than any president so far in history. Of course, he has 16 days to get on the scoreboard, but so far, he has issued only 28 pardons. President Obama accepted about 5% of the pardon requests he received, whereas Trump has accepted less than 0.5%.
Donald Trump has steadfastly broken with tradition and established convention, and there is no reason now to believe he will change his approach or beliefs. If he thinks he can gain from pardoning himself, he will do it.