In 2018, Trump even said he had the “absolute right” to forgive himself – a claim that many constitutional law scholars dispute.
Here’s a look at Trump’s power of forgiveness, which is considerable but not absolute.
Are there limits to Trump’s power of forgiveness?
The power of pardon, which comes from the American Constitution, is one of the broadest a president has. The founders of the nation viewed the power of forgiveness as a means of showing mercy and serving the public good.
While pardons are usually granted to people who have been sued, pardons can cover behavior that has not yet resulted in legal action.
A pardon cannot be reviewed by other branches of government and the president does not have to give a reason for issuing one.
A pardon erases a criminal conviction. A different form of executive leniency, known as commutation, leaves the conviction intact but erases the punishment.
But the power of forgiveness is not absolute.
Basically, a pardon only applies to federal crimes. This means that pardons would not protect, for example, Trump’s associates from the criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a district attorney.
Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, stemmed from low-key payments former lawyer and restorative President Michael Cohen made ahead of the 2016 election to two women – an adult movie star and a former Playboy model – who reported having had sex. meetings with Trump.
Trump denied the meetings and said the investigation was politically motivated.
The district attorney suggested in court documents that the investigation is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. No one was charged with criminal offenses.
Could Trump forgive his family members?
Yes. It is legal for Trump to forgive those around him, including his family members.
In 2001, former President Bill Clinton pardoned his own brother, Roger, who was convicted of cocaine possession in Arkansas.
Clinton pardoned about 450 people, including Democratic Party donor Marc Rich, who fled the country on charges of tax evasion.
Can Trump forgive himself?
There is no definitive answer to this question. No president has tried it before, so the courts have not intervened.
“When people ask me if a president can forgive himself, my response is always, ‘Well, he can try,’ said Brian Kalt, professor of constitutional law at Michigan State University.
“The Constitution does not provide a clear answer on this subject.”
Many jurists have said that a self-pardon would be unconstitutional because it violates the basic principle that no one should be a judge in their own case.
Kalt said that, in his opinion, this was the strongest argument. Trump could try to forgive himself preemptively to cover the possibility of prosecution after he leaves office.
In this case, the legitimacy of the pardon might never be tested in court, Kalt said. For a court to rule on the validity of the pardon, a federal prosecutor would have to charge Trump with a felony, and then Trump would have to invoke the pardon as a defense, he said.
Could the Vice President take over and forgive Trump?
In a 1974 memorandum, a Justice Department attorney said President Richard Nixon could not forgive himself but that another option was constitutional: to temporarily resign, receive pardon from his vice president, and resume. then power.
To do this, Nixon should have invoked the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows an incapacitated president to temporarily resign.
Nixon ultimately resigned amid the Watergate scandal and arraignment and dismissal of almost some of his office. His successor, Gerald Ford, later pardoned Nixon for all federal crimes he committed or may have committed during his tenure.
It’s unclear what Vice President Mike Pence would gain from agreeing to forgive Trump, said Corey Brettschneider, professor of political science at Brown University.
“I don’t think Pence would want that to define his legacy,” Brettschneider said.
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