Sunday 24 June 2018

Trump has the power to pardon himself, insists adviser Giuliani

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Yasmeen Abutaleb

US President Donald Trump probably has the power to pardon himself if collusion with Russia is proved, according to his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Mr Trump is under pressure from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 US election.

Mr Giuliani insisted, however, that Mr Trump "has no intention of pardoning himself", but that the US constitution, which gives a president the authority to issue pardons, "doesn't say he can't".

Speaking on ABC's 'This Week' programme, Mr Giuliani added: "It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by, gosh, that's what the constitution says."

Mr Mueller is investigating whether Russia meddled in the presidential election and whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow. Mr Mueller, whose investigation already has led to criminal charges against Trump campaign aides including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is also looking into whether Mr Trump unlawfully sought to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Both Russia and Mr Trump deny collusion, and the president has denied obstructing the probe.

Mr Giuliani noted that the political ramifications of a self-pardon could be severe. He said: "The president of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable. And it would lead to probably an immediate impeachment."

Under the constitution, a president can be impeached by the House of Representatives and then removed from office by the Senate.

The possibility of a self-pardon appeared to be raised in a January 29 letter from Mr Trump's lawyers to Mr Mueller, published by the 'New York Times' on Saturday, arguing that the president could not have obstructed the probe given the powers granted to him by the constitution.

"It remains our position that the president's actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired," Mr Trump's lawyers wrote.

The letter did not explicitly describe the possibility of Mr Trump pardoning himself.

Whether Mr Trump may pardon himself is a matter of some debate.

A justice department memo dated four days before former president Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 during the Watergate political corruption scandal took the view that "under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself".

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, made clear he did not think Mr Trump or any other president should pardon himself. "I don't think a president should pardon themselves," he told CNN.

Former Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, fired by Mr Trump last year along with numerous other federal prosecutors, said it would be "outrageous" for a sitting president to pardon himself and that doing so would represent "almost self-executing impeachment".

"Whether or not there is a minor legal argument that some law professor somewhere in a legal journal can make that the president can pardon, that's not what the framers could have intended," Mr Bharara said.

Irish Independent

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