The New York Times reported on Saturday that Trump’s legal team believes that Trump under the constitution can exercise his power to pardon in the Russia investigation in a letter written to special counsel Robert Mueller in January.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and current attorney for President Donald Trump, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the president “probably” has the power to pardon himself.
But Giuliani also added that pardoning himself could have serious political consequences for Trump.
A special counsel is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, and whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice.
The question of self-pardon arose after the New York Times published a letter to the counsel from Mr. Trump’s lawyers.
In it they say he has absolute power as US legal chief to end investigations, or “even exercise his power to pardon”.
Such absolute powers, they argue, mean that he could not have obstructed justice in any case.
Former US attorney Preet Bharara said Sunday that it “If the President decided he was going to pardon himself, that’s almost self-executing impeachment.”
It all stems from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged collusion between the Trump team and Russian officials in the election campaign that brought the president to power.
Part of Mr. Mueller’s investigation is looking at whether Mr. Trump sought to criminally obstruct it, in particular with the sacking of ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI director James Comey, and with his reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the investigation.
No-one really knows. There is no precedent for a president trying.
In the case of former President Richard Nixon, the Justice Department said he could not pardon himself, but others argue it is not precluded in the US Constitution.
This latter theory was something touched on in the newly leaked letter. So what is this letter all about?
It is dated 29 January and was sent to Mr. Mueller by John Dowd, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers who has since left the team.
It appears to be an attempt to show the president as untouchable. Its main points are that, because the president is the nation’s chief legal officer, he:
– Cannot be subpoenaed
– Cannot be indicted
– Cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice because, given his absolute powers, that would effectively mean obstructing himself
The debate over whether or not a president can pardon himself has never been resolved — because no president has attempted such a thing. According to NPR, most legal experts do not believe that Trump can pardon himself because no one can be a judge in their own case.
Nevertheless, the leaking of the letter certainly displeased Mr. Trump.