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Published on November 16, 2020 1:08 AM

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What if Trumps Tries to Pardon Himself?
In the aftermath of his electoral defeat, we are confronted with the possibility President Donald Trump might pardon himself. No other president, not even Richard Nixon, has dared to do so. But Trump may want to extricate himself from the web of criminal accusations surrounding him. A self-pardon would be an assault on the rule of law and the principle that no person, including the president, is above the law. The public outcry would be enormous.

As a first-term congresswoman, I became familiar with presidential pardons when former President Gerald Ford testified before Congress in October 1974 about pardoning President Richard Nixon. I alone questioned Ford about the suspicious circumstances surrounding the pardon, and whether it was part of a deal with Nixon to get him to resign. I never got a credible answer.

The Nixon pardon angered the public and created a dual justice system — one for the powerful and another for everyone else. I was concerned that shielding Nixon from accountability would signal to future presidents that they could commit crimes in office without facing criminal penalty. Sadly, my fears were realized in the lawlessness of Trump's presidency, and the looming possibility of his self-pardon.

Although there is no case law on the subject, a self-pardon is unconstitutional and invalid — and therefore cannot guarantee Trump, once he leaves the presidency, protection from prosecution for any federal crimes he may have committed.

The Constitution gives presidents broad powers to issue pardons for any federal (not state) crime. But allowing presidents to pardon themselves contradicts the whole thrust of the Constitution, and the notion that people cannot ...