Part II: What Would Happen if Trump Pardoned Himself?
President Trump has brought up the possibility of a pardon before. “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” he wrote in June 2018.
As highlighted in our first post of this series, President Trump is right: he could pardon himself. However, if he became the first president in history to do that, what would ensue? No More President Trump? Because impeachment is unaffected by presidential pardons, even if President Trump pardoned himself, he could still be impeached. However, impeachment takes time, and the removal of a president from office is complex.
There are several steps to the impeachment process, including the decision to make an inquiry by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the possible formation of a new committee, a committee vote, and a full vote of the House. To impeach a president, the House must reach a simple majority, or 50% plus one vote. With a Democratic majority in the House, this would likely occur.
Once a president has been impeached, however, the Senate gets a say. In the senate, a two-thirds majority is needed to convict the president and remove them from office. In the current political climate, and with a Republican majority, there’s no telling how that vote would go. No president has ever been removed from office via impeachment.
State Prosecution Even if the president remained in office, he could be subject to prosecution under state laws. There are some states—including New York—that honor presidential pardons. However, if the Mueller investigation uncovered crimes in states that do not include such a law, Trump could be in trouble in those states. A wide array of properties across the United States proffers the potential for legal action in various states. Thus, even with a presidential pardon and no impeachment, Trump could conceivably end up behind bars—unless a successive president chose to pardon him.
Past Presidential Pardons The powerful presidential pardon, given the right circumstances, could help President Trump avoid a lot of trouble. But since a president has never pardoned themselves before, it’s hard to predict what could happen. Even though past presidents have stopped short of pardoning themselves, they have used pardons to creatively get themselves out of trouble. We’ll explore some of these instances in our next installment of the series.
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