Should a President Be Able to Pardon Himself?
Here’s The Scoop
The question of whether a U.S. president can pardon himself has long been a contentious topic in American politics. This debate has been reignited as former President Trump, currently facing 91 felony counts across four criminal cases, has hinted at the possibility of utilizing one of the presidency’s most potent powers to absolve himself of criminal liability.
The presidential pardon, granted by Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, is a formidable tool at the president’s disposal. It allows the commander-in-chief to eclipse the federal and military judiciary systems without consulting Congress. The president can grant a pardon to anyone convicted of a federal crime, using whichever standards he deems fit.
However, the power of the pardon is not absolute. A president cannot pardon people convicted of state crimes nor commute sentences for state crimes. Pardons also cannot apply to congressional impeachments against federal officials, as this would infringe upon the separation of powers.
Scholars are divided on whether the president’s pardon power extends to himself. Some argue that the open-endedness of the Constitution does not explicitly exclude anyone from receiving a pardon, while others believe that a self-pardon would violate the Constitution.
Trump has recently stated that it’s “very unlikely” he would pardon himself if he is convicted of a crime and wins office again. However, he defended the concept of self-pardons during his presidency, claiming he had “the absolute right” to do so.
The question remains open and contentious. Regardless of the legal feasibility, the moral implications of a self-pardon, especially in today’s politically charged climate, are worth considering.
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