An Informative Read on the Pardon Power
Steven L. Taylor
Saturday, July 29, 2017
From Andrew Rudalevige at The Monkey Cage: Here’s what you need to know about the presidential power to pardon.
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective.
He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog).
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I’m surprised this is even a question — I am not a constitutional scholar, but a plain reading seems to be that the President can pardon anyone of federal crimes, including himself. The impeachment process, however, is not affected by any pardons, since it isn’t a criminal trial.
The problem with that reading is it creates a SEVERE power imbalance, effectively removing an essential check/balance. Should the :President be allowed to pardon himself of any federal crime, what’s to stop him from removing his political enemies that would impeach him by hiring a hitman and then pardoning himself repeated? This isn’t a hypothetical mind you, it’s a very real scenario in autocratic systems where rule by power means you cooperate with the boss or you die. If Trump can forgive himself of such blackmail, what’s to stop himself or another down the line from taking an iron fist to our country?
The Founding Fathers expected the President to have some level of human decency and honor. It probably never occurred to them to phrase it that the man himself can’t have a pass because they didn’t think such a scoundrel would be placed in charge and they obviously didn’t want another untouchable king. It’s clearly an oversight in the language considering the documentation we have of the debates. Holding the president accountable for his actions – and thus no get out of jail free card – was important.