Trump insists on ‘absolute right’ to pardon himself

President rows into divisive debate on immunity amid ongoing Russian investigation

Donald Trump tweet: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”  Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump tweet: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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US president Donald Trump said on Monday he has the power to pardon himself, thus insulating himself from the ongoing Russia investigation even as he asserted he has “done nothing wrong.”

The president raised the prospect that he might take this extraordinary action to immunise himself while also insisting that “numerous legal scholars” have concluded that he has the absolute right to pardon himself. But this is a claim that vastly overstates the legal thinking on the issue. In fact, many constitutional experts dispute Mr Trump’s position on an issue for which there has been no definitive ruling.

“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?” he wrote. “In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!”

The president’s assertion came in a morning tweet just a day after Rudy Giuliani, one of his lawyers, told the Huffington Post that Mr Trump is essentially immune from prosecution while in office and could even have shot the former FBI director [James Comey] without risking indictment while he was president.

Mr Giuliani also said over the weekend that the president “probably” has the power to pardon himself but said on NBC’s Meet the Press that it would be “unthinkable” for him to do so. Doing so, said Mr Giuliani, would “lead to probably an immediate impeachment”, adding that he “has no need to do that. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Mr Trump’s statement on Twitter went further than Mr Giuliani’s remarks and raises the prospect that the president might try to test the limits of his pardon power if Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, tried to indict him for obstruction of justice. Mr Mueller has indicated he does not plan to seek an indictment, according to Mr Giuliani.

The comments by Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani about the legal limits of presidential power follow a report in the New York Times that the president’s lawyers had authored a 20-page memorandum in January arguing that Mr Trump could “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon”.

In the memo, sent to Mr Mueller’s office in January, the president’s legal team said that he cannot, by definition, illegally obstruct any part of the Russia inquiry because the constitution gives him the power to end it in the first place.

The president also tweeted on Monday morning about trade, asserting that Canada has “all sorts of trade barriers” on US agricultural products. “Not acceptable,” he said. He also bragged about his accomplishments at the 500-day mark in office.

Shortly after, the White House echoed that sentiment with an email to reporters entitled: “President Donald J. Trump’s 500 Days of American Greatness.” 
– New York Times

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