Can Trump pardon himself? Notes on Russiagate

Donald Trump is said to have asked his lawyers for their opinion on whether he has the power to pardon himself.

The parts of the Constitution relative to pardons are:

Article 2, Section 2. The President … shall have the power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Article 2, Section 4. The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article 1, Section 3. … Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust of Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

What I take this to mean is that the Founders never thought about the possibility of a President pardoning himself.  It’s a settled principle of law that no-one should be judge in their own case, but I’m not bold enough to say how the courts would decide this issue.

If President Trump had the authority to pardon himself, could he literally stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shoot someone and then pardon himself for the crime of homicide?

No.   The pardon power extends only to federal crimes.   In this thought experiment, he could still be prosecuted under New York state law.

The pardon power does not extend to impeachment, but the only penalty under impeachment is removal from office.

For all practical purposes, there is no way to hold a criminal President accountable except through the impeachment process.

∞∞∞

>>USA Today reported on Monday that Americans are evenly divided — 42 percent to 42 percent — on the question of whether President Trump should be impeached.    USA reported that a third of Americans would be upset if the President is impeached and a third would be upset if he isn’t.

Whether President Trump has committed an impeachable offense is not a question of being pro-Trump or anti-Trump.   It is a question of objective fact.   Here is the Constitutional definition of an impeachable offense.

Article 2, Section 4.  The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

If it can be proved that President Trump made promises to Vladimir Putin in return for help in the election, either by means of releasing negative information about Hillary Clinton, by trolling social media or by somehow tampering with the vote count or voter registration rolls, then Trump should be removed from office, and then prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I find it hard to believe he did any of these things, and the constant drip, drip, drip of claims by anonymous sources has not changed my mind.

If the fix were in, it seems to me that President Trump would have kept as far away from Putin and Russians as he could, and would have ordered his family and staff to do the same thing.

If the fix were in, I don’t think Trump would have given a joking shout-out to the Russians last June to locate Hillary Clinton’s missing e-mails.   He would not have allowed his son-in-law to meet with a Russian lobbyist who claimed to have dirt on Clinton.

>>Why hasn’t the Democratic National Committee allowed the FBI to examine the computers the Russians allegedly hacked?  Why hasn’t the FBI asked for a court order to see the computers?

>>Why hasn’t the Department of Homeland Security examined the electronic voting systems and voter registration records that the Russians allegedly hacked?

>>The Russians use sophisticated propaganda to try to influence public opinion in other countries.  So do China, Israel, Saudi Arabia and many other countries.  So does the United States, in addition to more direct methods of bringing about regime change.  Propaganda is not war nor it a crime.

>>Donald Trump during his business career made deals with unsavory Russians.   I think this would have been a legitimate campaign issue.   Impeachable offenses?   Maybe so, but I doubt it.

>>I think the heads of the U.S. intelligence community would like to be rid of Trump.   One reason is that they correctly see Trump as unpredictable, unstable and unfit to handle a military or foreign policy crisis.   Another is that they don’t count on him to be a reliable supporter of continuing U.S. war policy.

>>There are good reasons for being opposed to President Trump.  But bending the law to get rid of a particular individual sets a bad precedent.  Refusing to accept the outcome of an election sets a dangerous precedent.   Any extraordinary measures to force Trump out of office now will be used in the future to force out anybody who threatens the status quo.

LINKS

Was the ‘Russia Hack’ an Inside Job? by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

What Does Russiagate Look Like to Russians? by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Trump, Russia, the Birth Certificate and the Election That Will Not Conclude by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

Pussy Riot Founder Says American Liberals Scapegoat Putin to Distract from Democrats’ Problems by David Sirota for International Business Times.

In other Trump-related news—

Five Ways the Trump Administration Is a Disaster for Science by Michael Halpern for Rolling Stone.

A New Deal for Wall Street: Trump’s Plans for Mass Privatization Are a Colossal Giveaway to the 1% by Rebecca Burns for In These Times.

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