Donald Trump has faced a glut of legal challenges including lawsuits, fraud allegations and tax evasion allegations during his years as US President. But as his presidency enters its final weeks, Trump is deeply aware that once he formally exits the White House (on January 20 next year), he would not have the extensive legal protections that he hitherto enjoys.
In 2018, he tweeted, “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!”
What is a presidential pardon?
All US presidents have the constitutional right to pardon or commute the sentence of people who have broken federal laws. The power to pardon cannot be restricted even by the Congress, therefore making it a limitless power that applies only to federal crimes and not state crimes. Thus, the pardons are not questioned and no reason has to be provided for the same.
Can Trump pardon himself?
Since there is no precedent of a president pardoning himself in US history, the legality of the issue has not been clear. Although Trump has insisted over the years that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself. But a presidential pardon would not be able to protect Trump completely as pardons can only be given for federal crimes and therefore he may have to face trials in the state crimes. Trump can use this power- like previous presidents- to pardon his friends and family as this happened in 2019 as well when Trump commuted the prison sentence of his long-time ally Roger Stone.
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Can vice president Mike Pence pardon Trump?
Experts have been saying that Trump could use the 25th amendment of the US constitution which allows an incapacitated president to temporarily resign and hand over the reins to the vice president, who will act on his behalf until he returns to the office during which Pence could pardon Trump. Although, this seems like a remote possibility.