Donald Trump has pardoned several of his closest confidants over the past month and previously claimed he has the “absolute right” to do the same for himself.
The 45th president is said to have discussed forgiving himself and his family, asking his aides what effect it would have on him legally and politically, two White House sources told The New York Times.
Sky News is examining whether Mr. Trump can forgive himself and his family members ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Impeachment is ‘a terrible thing’ – Trump
Professor Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, who testified as a constitutional expert in Mr. Trump’s 2019 impeachment proceeding, provided expert analysis.
How do presidential pardons work?
A president can pardon a person at any time, including before a person is charged with a crime.
This means that they can be protected from prosecution, because a pardon gives them legal immunity from criminal liability.
However, a court should decide to accept if this pardon is valid.
For those who have already been convicted of committing a crime, a presidential pardon means they are off the hook.
However, a president can only forgive federal crimes, so anyone pardoned can still be prosecuted by any of the 50 states.
Image: Mr Trump has granted full pardon to his campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election
Can a president forgive himself?
The constitution is not 100% clear on this, and it’s not something another president has attempted before.
Professor Gerhardt said: “There is a difference of opinion on whether a president can forgive himself, but a few more think he cannot.
“I don’t think the president has the power to forgive himself.
“First, if you look at constitutional language, the president doesn’t have the power to forgive, he has the power to grant a pardon.
“Granting, when the constitution was drafted, and now, means giving someone else the power to be pardoned – it doesn’t mean giving yourself something.”
“I guess the president can’t agree on anything.
“Second, if we just look at the general purpose of the constitution and its structure, the drafters rebelled against a king and it makes no sense to look at it and say they would like to, there is no indication that they intended to create a king or give the president the power to rise above the law.
“The people have put him in power, there are mechanisms in the constitution to deal with his behavior in power.
“But there is nothing to suggest that he is the only person in the United States who can rise above the people.”
But will Mr. Trump try to forgive himself?
“I’m sure he will try and he just might do it,” said Professor Gerhardt.
“I’ve heard people in the White House urge him not to do it, but he likes to do things people tell him not to do.”
Could this be an admission of guilt?
“Yes, I think so,” said Professor Gerhardt.
“If someone receives forgiveness, by accepting that forgiveness, the person is implicitly acknowledging their guilt.
“If he forgives his family, they admit their guilt.
Can Mr. Trump forgive his family?
Yes. Just as he pardoned some of his associates and associates, Mr. Trump can forgive his family. Several, including his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, and his son Eric Trump, worked very closely with him during his tenure.
Professor Gerhardt added: “He will say it is to protect them from Biden and the Democrats.
“In fact, it’s because they’ve gone out on their own and broken the laws from left to right, which he doesn’t want them to be held responsible for.”
Image: Mr Trump’s children Eric (left), Ivanka and Donald Jr all worked closely with their father during his presidency
Can Joe Biden forgive Mr. Trump when he becomes president?
Yes he can. Gerald Ford, when he became president, pardoned Richard Nixon for any crimes he might have committed as president, especially covering his actions during the Watergate scandal.
Mr Ford said he felt it was in the best interests of the country and that the situation of the Nixon family was “a tragedy that we all played a part in. It could go on and on.”
Image: Richard Nixon received a presidential pardon from Gerald Ford
But Professor Gerhardt thinks Mr. Biden is unlikely to do the same for Mr. Trump.
“It’s going to be a political choice, it’s not unthinkable for Biden to forgive Trump for putting all the mess behind us.
“But, I think he is unlikely, I think he is likely to take the position that” Trump is not my responsibility therefore, however the chips are falling for Trump is really his doing and I am not party to that “.
What happens if Mr. Trump forgives himself?
Professor Gerhardt said: “If the president forgives himself, it could end up in the Supreme Court, as it is likely that a federal prosecutor will sue Trump for some illegality during his tenure.”
Would forgiving himself get Mr. Trump out of impeachment?
No. The constitution is very clear, it says: “He [the president] will have the power to grant stays and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in the event of indictment. “
Professor Gerhardt added that there is no doubt that what he has done to incite violence on Capitol Hill is an impenetrable offense.
“Any academics with integrity would agree that it’s unblemished, so we don’t even wonder if it’s flawless,” he said.
“It’s like driving 100 km / h in a school zone when you can only drive 25 km / h – it’s so obvious.”
He added that it did not matter whether he left office before the proceedings began, “because there is a precedent”.
And he said the reason Democrats removed him is “to put another brand on Trump, for the whole story.”
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