Possible Premature Pardon

As Trump’s presidency comes to an end, there a few things potentially still in the works. The President is said to be working on premature pardons for three of his children, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump, along with the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Rudy Giuliani. The President has even been said to want to prematurely pardon himself.

President Trump is no stranger to pardoning people close to his administration. According to CNN, on Nov. 25, he announced a full pardon of former national secretary advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. This pardon was no surprise because back in March, the President was said to be “strongly considering” it. However, what is a surprise is talks of a preemptive pardon. Here is a breakdown of the issue:

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What is a pardon?

The job of a pardon is to exempt someone from punishment for a crime and to restore all of their rights. A pardon can be given to someone who has committed a federal crime. The president cannot pardon someone who has committed a crime at the state level. 

Can a president grant a preemptive pardon?

While a preemptive pardon is uncommon, it has been done before. According to NPR, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal but before charges were actually brought forth. There does not need to be a charged or standing trial in order for this clemency to be instated. The President is within his rights that his office holds to enact this sort of pardon.

Photo by René DeAnda on Unsplash

Can a president pardon himself?

This is a little bit of a grey area seeing how a president has never attempted to pardon himself. 

When it comes to pardons, a president has a lot of leeway and power. The only limit mentioned in the Constitution is a president cannot use it to prevent an impeachment. According to the case United States v. Klein, "Congress can neither limit the effect of his pardon, nor exclude from its exercise any class of offenders." This all causes a bit of conflict between constitutional scholars. There are some who interpret this all in a way that gives President Trump the ability to pardon himself if he sees fit, and there are some who deem that outside his power. Regardless of legal thinkers, the President has made it clear that he believes he is well within his powers to do so if he needs to. In a Tweet last week he wrote, “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself…”

Since rumors of these pardons broke, Giuliani has denied that these pardons are in the works while the White House has not made an official comment. The President has stressed that while he is well within his rights to pardon himself and his family, why would he? Saying in a tweet previously mentioned, "Why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

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