Courtesy of WaPo:
Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.
The Justice Department was right that guidance could be found in the enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.
The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself.
The pardon provision of the Constitution is there to enable the president to act essentially in the role of a judge of another person’s criminal case, and to intervene on behalf of the defendant when the president determines that would be equitable. For example, the president might believe the courts made the wrong decision about someone’s guilt or about sentencing; President Barack Obama felt this way about excessive sentences for low-level drug offenses. Or the president might be impressed by the defendant’s subsequent conduct and, using powers far exceeding those of a parole board, might issue a pardon or commutation of sentence.
Other equitable considerations could also weigh in favor of leniency. A president might choose to grant a pardon before prosecution of a person when the president believes that the prosecution is not in the national interest; President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon in part for this reason.
Or a president may conclude that even if a person may have committed a crime, he was acting in good faith to protect the national interest; President George H.W. Bush pardoned former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger in the Iran-contra affair in part for this reason.
In all such instances, however, the president is acting as a kind of super-judge and making a decision about someone else’s conduct, the justice of someone else’s sentence or whether it is in the national interest to prosecute someone else. He is not making a decision about himself.
No Trump cannot save himself, and it is unlikely that anyone else will risk trying to rescue him in any way either.
As of right now, Trump has limited powers, and he is soon going to find himself abandoned by almost everybody who he once believed were his friends and supporters.
His is poisonous to everyone around him and they will soon flee as far as their legs can carry them in order to resist being pulled into the vortex that will soon open up beneath his feet.
There was talk of Trump stepping down and appointing Pence as his replacement in the hopes of receiving a pardon in return, but Trump’s ego has proven much too large to allow that to happen, and it is quite unlikely that Pence would risk the fallout of doing that anyway.
So Trump is now a mad king surrounded by panicky deserters concerned only with saving their own skins, while outside those demanding justice bang on the castle door demanding his head.
It is almost Shakesperean don’t you think?