Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, an interesting constitutional thought experiment emerged: If #Hillary Clinton did deserve to be locked up, in the eloquent articulation of Donald Trump supporters, could she use the power of the presidential pardon on … herself?
On Nov. 8, the question became pointless, as we learned that Clinton would not have that authority or any power of the presidency. But it has reemerged of late, given the spate of news articles concerning alleged wrongdoings in the Trump campaign and administration. If Trump violated some #law, could he pardon himself?
The short answer is that no one really knows. The longer answer is that the reasons he might want to are more complex than we might usually assume.
“We can all only speculate what would happen if the president tried to do it,” said Brian Kalt, professor of law at Michigan State University and author of the book “Constitutional Cliffhangers.” “We’re all just predicting what the court would do if it happened, but no one can be sure.”
The constitutional language governing pardons reads, “The President … shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” That vagueness is part of the reason the boundaries of the authority would need to be interpreted by the courts in unusual cases, like the one at hand.
That said, Kalt’s got an opinion about what the Supreme Court would do if Trump (or any president) tried to give himself a pardon: They’d throw it out.