During this era of social media, Donald J. Trump, has single-handedly created a bully pulpit of his role as of president of the United States in his use of Twitter. He has leveraged his communication staff and attempted to manipulate the media and the public at large. More recently the president has been promulgating the notion of “preemptively” pardoning himself. If this were to occur in some form or fashion, I believe most educated Americans would ask, who did it? And what did they do?
Without an actual prosecution against Trump or one of his companies, there is nothing for Trump to pardon at this time. Media reports suggest he will face some of the deepest financial and legal challenges in his family business empire in decades when he leaves office.
Using his position to manipulate the system for his own benefit while in office and stimulating the idea of granting a “presidential pardon” should not be tolerated.
This issue of self-pardoning surfaced back in the Nixon era whereby the U.S. Justice Department examined the question and concluded it wasn’t within the president’s power to pardon himself.
“Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself,” the Office of Legal Counsel wrote in August 1974.
However, Trump doesn’t agree with this as he Tweeted in June 2018: “As has been stated by numerous 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 midterms!”
Based on his interest with this issue, another option Trump may pursue involves Vice-President Mike Pence. The 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows an incapacitated president to temporarily step down. In Nixon’s case, he resigned in the face of the Watergate scandal, and his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him for any federal crimes he committed while in office. Trump could attempt such gamesmanship with Pence, but I struggle with what Pence would gain from such a move.
Given the fact, many of the potential crimes Trump faces are outside the federal level, which would not be covered by a presidential pardon, an indirect admission that comes along with accepting a pardon suggests it is unlikely to happen.
One thing is consistent throughout this controversy: Trump will stoop to any level no matter how low or “unpresidential” the behavior may be to protect himself. His character and actions in office support this idea.
However, that does not give him the right to be the judge of himself or misuse the office of the president and manipulate anything and everything for his own benefit. He would leave a much stronger legacy by paying attention to the management of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, highlighting his accomplishments, and assisting President-elect Joe Biden in his transition.