Can Trump pardon himself? Stay tuned.

Dec 4, 2020, 7:34 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:22 am
Trump relief bill...
FILE: President Donald Trump participates in a video teleconference call with members of the military on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Does a US president have the power to pardon himself? The legal and constitutional ability of a president to pardon himself is an unresolved issue. 

The president has the power to completely set aside the punishment for any and all federal criminal offenses under the authority of Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

A president’s pardon power is limited to “offenses against the United States” and not violations of state,  civil or local law. Also, under the US Constitution (Article II Section 2): The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of impeachment.

A presidential pardon also offers the recipient restoration of any rights that were rescinded for a federal conviction, such as the ability to own a firearm.

But should Mr. Trump pardon himself? A big-name supporter thinks so.

Fox News host and Trump ally Sean Hannity suggested the president should pardon himself, saying on his Nov. 30 radio show, “The president out the door needs to pardon his whole family and himself.”

Conservative attorney and former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell who was a guest on the show said: “It is absolute, it’s in the Constitution. I don’t know about his authority to pardon himself, but it should not be necessary, and aside from that, the president is going to get another four years in office.”

No precedent

Legal experts disagree about whether Mr. Trump could pardon himself — and no president has ever tried.

The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether a president can pardon himself. It would almost certainly set off a legal battle if Mr. Trump tried to do it.

If he did and was later indicted, it could create an opportunity for the Supreme Court to resolve the question.

In 2018, Trump tweeted he had the “absolute right” to pardon himself during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.


In a 1998 House Judiciary Committee hearing about the proposed impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., stated, “The prevailing opinion is that the president can pardon himself,” according to The New York Times.

But under the fundamental legal rule that no one may be a judge in his or her own case, it would seem that the question of a president pardoning himself would be no.

In the past, the official position of the executive branch was that a president could not self-pardon. A self-pardon would run afoul of a bedrock legal principle in the United States, according to a 1974 memo written by the Office of Legal Counsel under President Nixon.

“Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself,” the memo declared days before President Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal.

On Aug. 4, 1974, four days before Mr. Nixon resigned, Mary C. Lawton, who was then acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, issued a legal opinion, stating that “it would seem” that Mr. Nixon could not pardon himself “under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.”

In her memo, Lawton argued, however, that it would be lawful for a president to declare himself temporarily disabled, receive a pardon from the vice president, then resume his role as president.

Under such a scenario, Mr. Trump could secure his pardon by asking Vice President Mike Pence to do it for him.

Finally, and most significantly, Article II, Section 3 of the US Constitution contains the Faithful Execution Clause, commonly known as the Take Care Clause.

“[The President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed . . .”

The clause means that the president may neither breach federal law nor order his or her subordinates to do so, for defiance can’t be considered faithful execution.

So if the president could grant himself a pardon under Article II, Section 2 — and remember Mr. Trump said he had the “absolute right” to do so — he would be in violation of Article II, Section 3.

Would The Framers of the Constitution allow for such seemingly contradictory laws applying to the president? Seems not.

Will Mr. Trump try to pardon himself anyway?

Stay tuned.


Similar Links:

Trump pardons Flynn, taking direct aim at Russia probe

Trump commutes Blagojevich sentence, pardons others

Trump commutes longtime friend Roger Stone’s prison sentence

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Crime, Police + Courts

West Valley Police received a call from family members of a suicidal individual leaving their home,...
Waverly Golden

Individual in custody after firing shots from his vehicle

West Valley Police received a call from family members of a suicidal individual leaving their home, the individual was safely taken into custody.
20 hours ago
buy-back guns...
Adam Small

Got unwanted guns? Salt Lake Police say bring them to buy-back event

For the second year in a row, the Salt Lake City Police Department will host a guns buy-back event at the Public Safety Building located at 475 South 300 East.
20 hours ago
Gwyneth Paltrow sits during her trial...

Gwyneth Paltrow is testifying in Utah trial over 2016 ski collision where a man accuses her of leaving him brain damaged

Next week, Paltrow's team is expected to call to the stand medical experts, ski instructors and her two children, Moses and Apple.
20 hours ago
george santos is pictured...
Julia Vargas Jones, CNN

Prosecutors accept deal with George Santos in Brazilian fraud case

A petition from George Santos' attorney requesting a deal says Santos would agree to formally confess to the crime and pay damages to the victim.
20 hours ago
A Woods Cross man, owner of USA Gymnastics World, was arrested Wednesday after police say they alle...
Lindsay Aerts & Devin Oldroyd

KSL EXCLUSIVE: “It’s been a punch to the gut,” Woods Cross mom of boy recorded on hidden device speaks out

A Woods Cross mother says "it's been a punch to the gut," being told her son is one of the children secretly recorded on a hidden device.
2 days ago
Curt Gresseth

Mother tells of her escape from addiction and being homeless

A homeless mother describes her spiral into addiction and how she climbed out and is helping other homeless people today.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...
BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.
Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a new winter activity? Try skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five common causes of Cervical Cancer – and what you can do to lower your risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get ready for fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 easy Christmas dinner ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Can Trump pardon himself? Stay tuned.