Tamburino Talks Law: Could President Trump Pardon Himself?

The issue of Pres. Trumps ability to pardon himself first came up in 2018 around impeachment. At the time, Pres. Trump asserted he had the right to pardon himself under the 25th amendment. Now the topic resurfacing in the media with observers debating whether a president can pardon themselves. It's a open legal question because it's never been test - no president has actually tried to pardon himself.

So, could President Trump pardon himself for any crimes that he may have committed? Listen to my take in Tamburino Talks Law or read the article below:

There are no definitive legal answers to that question, but I truly believe that the U.S. Constitution does not allow a president to pardon himself.

Let’s look at a few points: the pardon power in the Constitution, a president’s constitutional obligation to faithfully execute laws, and the structure of our government. The pardon power is found under Art. II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution and it clearly gives the president the power to pardon anyone for any federal offenses, but it doesn’t specifically state that he can pardon himself. It doesn’t say that he can’t, but we need to read that section in conjunction with Art. II, Sec. 3 in order for presidential powers to make sense. Art. II, Sec. 3 states that the president must ensure that laws are faithfully executed.

Therefore, the only way to reconcile the pardon power with the obligation to faithfully execute laws is to interpret the Constitution as not allowing a president to pardon himself. Think of it – how can a president faithfully execute laws yet at the same time break those laws and be legally allowed to pardon himself? It just wouldn’t make sense.

Also, the very structure of our government intimates that a president can’t pardon himself. The Constitution set up a federal government of limited powers, i.e., the people give power to the government and not the reverse. The federal government is not all-powerful and must recognize laws, due process and civil rights. Therefore, it would make no sense that a president would be above the law and be allowed to grant himself pardons for his crimes. Only an absolute monarch, a supreme king, has such power, and we don’t have kings in America.

The likely legal outcome if the president did try to pardon himself is the issue would go to the courts and many of the legal arguments I've made would determine he does not have the power to pardon himself.


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