Can anything stop Trump from pardoning his family or even himself?

Spread the love

President Donald Trump on Wednesday granted pardons to his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former adviser Roger Stone, sweeping away the most important convictions from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

So far, Trump, who has 27 days left in the White House until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, has issued 70 pardons since taking office.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Trump had talked with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about pardoning him, citing two people briefed on the matter. The Times also said that Trump has asked advisers about the possibility of “preemptively” pardoning his three eldest children – Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump.

In 2018, Trump even said he had the “absolute right” to pardon himself – a claim many constitutional law scholars dispute.

Here is an overview of Trump’s pardon power.



Most pardons are issued to people who have been prosecuted and sentenced. But pardons can cover conduct that has not resulted in legal proceedings, though they cannot apply to future conduct.

The Supreme Court said in 1866 that the pardon power “extends to every offense known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.”

Most famously, former President Richard Nixon was preemptively pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford in 1974 for all crimes he might have committed against the United States while he was in office.

READ ALSO:  President Buhari sacks National Copyright Commission’s chairman, Tonye Clinton Jaja

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter preemptively pardoned hundreds of thousands of “draft dodgers” who avoided a government-imposed obligation to serve in the Vietnam War.


The pardon power, which comes from the U.S. Constitution, is one of the broadest available to a president. The nation’s founders saw the pardon power as a way to show mercy and serve the public good.

The president does not have to give a reason for issuing a pardon. In a 1981 case, the Supreme Court said pardons “are rarely, if ever, appropriate subjects for judicial review.”

The pardon power, however, is not absolute. Crucially, a pardon only applies to federal crimes.


It would be legal for Trump to pardon his inner circle, including members of his family.

In 2001, former President Bill Clinton pardoned his brother, Roger, who was convicted for cocaine possession in Arkansas.

Clinton pardoned about 450 people, including a Democratic Party donor, Marc Rich, who had earlier fled the country because of tax evasion charges.


It’s unclear.

The pardon Nixon received from Ford was very broad, absolving Nixon for all criminal offenses he committed or may have taken part in during his presidency.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on whether such a broad pardon is lawful. Some scholars have argued the nation’s founders intended for pardons to be specific, and that there is an implied limit on their scope.


Trump’s children have not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing, and it is unclear what Trump would pardon them for.

READ ALSO:  WeChat users group sues Trump administration over ban it says is unconstitutional

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who enforces New York state laws, has been conducting a criminal investigation into Trump and his family company, the Trump Organization. Vance, a Democrat, has suggested in court filings that his probe could focus on bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

It is unclear what stage the investigation is at. No one has been charged with wrongdoing.

Trump, a Republican, has called the Vance probe politically motivated harassment. A presidential pardon, which can only be granted for federal crimes, would not apply to this investigation.

Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is unclear. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have been investigating his business dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing and denied that he spoke to Trump about a pardon.

“Never had the discussion they falsely attribute to an anonymous source,” Giuliani said on Twitter on Dec. 1, referring to the New York Times report.


Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, individuals can decline to speak to investigators if doing so might lead to self-incrimination. If someone receives a pardon and no longer faces legal jeopardy on the federal level, it may make it more difficult for them to assert this constitutional right.

However, since a presidential pardon applies only to federal crimes, pardon recipients can still lawfully refuse to cooperate if the conduct they have been pardoned for can also be prosecuted as a state crime.


There is not a definitive answer. No president has tried it before, so the courts have not weighed in.

READ ALSO:  It's time to listen to the Lebanese people about Hezbollah – comment

“When people ask me if a president can pardon himself, my answer is always, ‘Well, he can try,’” said Brian Kalt, a constitutional law professor at Michigan State University. “The Constitution does not provide a clear answer on this.”

Many legal experts have said a self-pardon would be unconstitutional because it violates the principle that nobody should be the judge in his or her own case.

Trump could try to pardon himself preemptively to cover the possibility of prosecution for federal crimes after he leaves office. No pardon could protect him against prosecution for any crimes by a U.S. state.

For a court to rule on the pardon’s validity, a federal prosecutor would have to charge Trump with a crime and Trump would have to raise the pardon as a defense, Kalt said.


When will Joe Biden call Benjamin Netanyahu? – analysis

The headlines coming out of some of the first phone calls the Biden administration made to foreign leaders and national Read more

Growing concern in Israel over appointment of Malley as US rep. to Iran

The Jewish anti-Israel co-head of the radical left-wing group Code Pink, Ariel Gold, supports the appointment of Robert Malley as Read more

Joe Biden’s rabbi on his connection to Jews, leadership and Israel

To really understand US President Joe Biden, his connection to the Jewish community, his style of leadership, and what it Read more

Biden envoy: US to reopen diplomatic missions for Palestinians

The United States plans to reopen the diplomatic missions for the Palestinians, US envoy Richard Mills told the UN Security Read more

Leave a Reply