Speed Reads

a constitutional question

Could Trump really pardon himself?

A Friday Washington Post story reported President Trump has been exploring the option of exercising his broad constitutional pardon power on behalf of himself or members of his campaign team or family. Trump set tongues wagging Saturday morning with a tweet apparently reserving the right to do exactly that:

Legal experts and commentators are divided over whether the presidential pardon power can be used this way, but the troubling implications of such a move are much less controversial.

"The Constitution doesn't specify whether the president can pardon himself, and no court has ever ruled on the issue, because no president has ever been brazen enough to try it," explains University of Michigan Law School professor Richard Primus at Politico. "Among constitutional lawyers, the dominant (though not unanimous) answer is 'no,' in part because letting any person exempt himself from criminal liability would be a fundamental affront to America's basic rule-of-law values."

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher similarly highlighted rule-of-law issues in a post on the subject for The American Conservative, arguing that what such a pardon "would reveal about how respect for the rule of law and basic republican order in the United States had decayed would be staggering."

Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet also focused on impropriety over illegality. "A self-pardon might well be outrageously improper (unless there was the prospect of charges brought by a rogue prosecutor, whom, for some reason, the president could not control by firing him or her)," he told Vox, "but the response the Constitution creates for such misconduct is impeachment, a political rather than criminal remedy."