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article imageWith all his legal worries, can President Trump pardon himself?

By Karen Graham     Nov 22, 2020 in Politics
Even though President Donald Trump refuses to accept it, his time in office is coming to a close on January 20, 2021. He will lose both his job and one of its perks - his immunity from prosecution on pending charges in lower courts.
There are multiple investigations in the works, looking at possible fraud in his financial business dealings as a private citizen, both as an individual and through his company. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, an enforcer of New York's tax laws, has been investigating Trump and his corporation for over two years.
Then, there are the women - numerous women - who have accused Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior in alleged incidents that date as far back as the 1970s. Of course, he has denied the allegations. A number of women did take legal action, however, Trump used the Department of Justice as his own private attorney to prevent submitting evidence.
The Justice Department moved one case from civil court to federal court and tried to argue that Trump's denial of a woman's rape allegation was a presidential act. The judge denied the Justice Department’s motion in late October. As a private citizen and a defendant in a civil suit, Trump may now have to provide evidence in the case — meaning testimony and, possibly a DNA sample.
With the Trump family's slew of legal problems facing them when Trump has to leave the White House, it is no wonder that he refuses to leave. But this mess does bring up an interesting question - Can the president pardon himself and his family before leaving office?
Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance enters a federal courthouse in New York on October 23  2019
Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance enters a federal courthouse in New York on October 23, 2019
Angela Weiss, AFP/File
The presidential pardon
Almost from the get-go, Trump was fascinated by the fact he could give pardons to just about anyone. And while he has pardoned a number of people who were certainly deserving of a pardon, Trump has also used his pardoning powers to pay his cronies who got into trouble with the law while doing his bidding.
In 2017, Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was charged and found guilty of being in contempt of court after refusing to cooperate with federal authorities attempting to change his department's racial profiling.
There is a whole list of potential pardons the president could hand out before leaving office, including Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who received immunity in the Michael Cohen case, and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is under federal investigation.
But could President Trump pardon himself? There is no precedent for such an act, so its legal validity would ultimately be left up to a court to decide, assuming Trump's attempt to do so would generate a lawsuit.
However, a president giving himself a pardon is seen as an admission of guilt. So any attempt by Trump to grant a self-pardon would more than likely touch off a constitutional crisis and lead to impeachment inquiries.
Last week  the Times reported that Rudy Giuliani was himself under federal investigation for his dea...
Last week, the Times reported that Rudy Giuliani was himself under federal investigation for his dealings with Kiev on President Trump's behalf
What the Constitution has to say about pardons.
As written in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the President's power to pardon seems nearly limitless: "The President] shall have the power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."
However, it also doesn't say that presidents can't pardon themselves of federal crimes, according to Find Law, although this particular gambit hasn't yet been attempted.
Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States. In office: January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
White House Photo Office
And just to be sure it remained that way, on August 5, 1974, four days before Richard Nixon resigned as president, in a memo written by an acting assistant attorney general, the Justice Department determined that “under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself.”
But the Constitution also says presidents may also issue pre-emptive pardons -- or rather, a pardon for any crimes an individual may have committed or may have been charged with.
For example, President Gerald Ford issued a pardon to outgoing President Richard Nixon even though Nixon had not been charged with any federal crimes at that point.
President Trump could do something similar, like resigning a few days before he is required to leave office, passing the authority to pardon over to Vice President Mike Pence, according to MSM News.
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