In a daring and unusual social media post Monday morning, President Donald Trump asserted he has the right to pardon himself for crimes he’s also denying being involved with.
“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?” Trump wrote.
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
Although Trump cites experts who do agree with his point of view, whether or not he has the right to pardon himself is up for debate. Legal scholars are split on the issue, with some even saying that a president attempting to pardon himself could be an impeachable offense.
Indeed, a Department of Justice memo from 1974 stated that the president does not have the privilege to pardon himself, an observation that was made during the last days of the troubled presidency of Richard Nixon.
“Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself,” the memo, authored by then-acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lawton, said.
Trump’s frequent use of pardoning powers has been controversial over the first 500 days of his presidency. He has used the power to help those close to him politically, such as former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and conservative columnist Dinesh D’Souza. He also pardoned Scooter Libby, who served as former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Libby was charged with lying to investigators and obstructing justice, and Trump’s pardon could very well be a signal to others within the Russia probe aligned with the president to hold their ground.
Whether he is allowed to pardon himself remains uncertain, but Americans should be alarmed by this type of rhetoric coming from the president. Trump’s insistence that he can pardon himself for crimes brings about comparisons to kings and other dictatorial figureheads believing themselves to be above the law.
If it is determined that Trump committed criminal acts, including possibly colluding with Russian actors to win the 2016 election campaign, or obstructing justice during the investigation itself, then action must be taken either by Congress or the office of the special counsel.
More importantly, we cannot cede our democracy to the whims and privileges that this president is trying to assert. Trump cannot — and must not — be allowed to pardon himself. Any attempt at doing so must be challenged by Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Leah Millis/Reuters