The Weiner Component V.2 #27 – President Trump & the Power of the Pardon

A Presidential Pardon is a document issued by the President.  It forgives an individual for a crime he/she has committed and wipes out the penalty, usually the balance of a jail sentence.  It is different from a reversal of a jail sentence, where a person has their innocence of a crime proclaimed and has been wrongly convicted.  Accepting a pardon is actually an admission of guilt.

 

From what I understand the President and virtually every, or most governors have this power to pardon people within their state or in the case of the President within the country.  I believe that Governors use this power far less than the President.

 

Intermittently of late, President Donald J. Trump has during low moments of his thinking, brought up his power to issue pardons for himself, members of his family, and for some of his close associates and friends.

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If we go back to the early 1970s, shortly after Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency over the Watergate break-in during the 1972 Presidential Election, his former Vice President the then President Gerald Ford issued a pardon to the then former President Nixon for any crimes he did or may have committed, stating that he had suffered enough in losing the presidency.

 

Other Presidents, over the years, have issued pardons, usually at the end of the Presidential year, presumably to deserving inmates.  Presidents Clinton and Obama did this.  Never before had any President or Governor issued pardons for themselves or their families.  I suppose Donald Trump could be the first to try this.

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Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states among the powers of the President “. . . he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of Impeachment.”

 

To issue a Reprieve is to delay something.  To issue a Pardon is to forgive a crime.  Does that mean he can pardon himself unless the crime is an impeachable offence?

 

Consequently the term “Pardon” is stated in the Constitution but not really defined.  Can Trump pardon himself of non-impeachable crimes?  Can he pardon members of his family and friends and simply continue with them in office?  It’s an interesting question considering that currently Congress has a Republican dominated Congress and a Republican President.  It should be kept in mind that only the House of Representatives can bring forth a Bill of Impeachment which is then tried in the Senate.  Would a Republican dominated House impeach a Republican President?

 

If the answer is negative, President Trump, his family, and his cohorts are all above the laws of the country.  The President at will can exonerate himself or anyone else and just continue as he had been, breaking the law.  The country would pass from a Democracy to a Dictatorship and Trump could even keep himself in office for the rest of his life.

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The question, if Trump presented it to the nation would have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.  They would have to make the final determination.

 

If we go back to the founding fathers, they certainly did not visualize anyone like Trump ever becoming President of the United States.  In fact they did not even visualize the existence of political parties.  They saw the people of the country getting together once every four years and electing electors, the wisest or most intelligent people in their Districts, and these people choosing the best man in the country as President.  And, of course, the first President was George Washington.

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Will Trump attempt this new use of the pardoning power?  He has been in office less than one year, currently over seven months.  We have seen his presidency slowly disintegrate as he has gone along with his tweeting, public announcements, and actions, some of which were totally inept.  If anything he has denigrated the role of the presidency in the United States.  In terms of the rest of the world he has taken America out of a leadership position.  In fact, as President, he has been an embarrassment to a good percentage of the American public.

 

If it turns out that the President, or members of his family, or any of his close associates has in any way colluded with Russia in the 2016 Presidential Election or otherwise will he act to pardon himself and them.  This is being currently investigated by the Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller.  If Mueller proves that Trump or any of the others, together or separately, participated with Russia to have Trump elected or otherwise participate in acts against the United States then Trump will probably act using the right to pardon himself and/or his family member and his other associates or, for that matter, both himself and them.

 

It should be noted the Bob Mueller is investigating both the 2016 Presidential Election and President Trump for obstruction of justice in reference to the Russian probe of the election.  He has publically stated nothing so far.  One of his approaches is to follow the money trails.  Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, stated recently on a Fox News interview that Special Council Mueller would get permission to expand his investigation if he had a valid reason to do so.

 

Recently Bob Mueller empowered two Grand Juries, one in Washington, D.C and one in Virginia.  The Grand Juries can issue subpoenas requiring the presence of specific individuals and they can issue incitements for jury trials.  Usually they are utilized when a crime has been committed.

 

Trump has hired a team of lawyers to protect him and also his oldest son, Donald Jr. and his sister, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who work in the White House all have hired attorneys to represent them.  The problem with Donald Trump, Sr. is that he likes to tweet and he does not necessarily listen to his lawyers.

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Up to this point Trump has alienated, besides the Democrats, a fair to large number of Republicans.  Currently the House of Representatives passed by an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats by a vote  of 419 to 3, well over the 2/3ds required to make a Presidential Veto pointless, a bill to increase the sanctions upon  Russia for interfering in the 2016 Election.  The Senate then did the same by a vote of 98 to 2.  Senator Rand Paul and Senator Bernie Sanders voted against the bill.  Since it was pointless to veto the bill President Trump reluctantly signed it very quietly.

 

With that action Congress has taken away from President Trump the ability to act on Russia.  The determination of America’s actions toward Russia and Iran have passed from the President to Congress cutting down the Presidential power.

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Currently President Trump has a problem with Mueller, the Special Counsel.  He has been upset since the investigation began.  Mueller keeps expanding his investigation and currently has or will examine Trump’s Income Tax returns that Trump considers sacrosanct.

 

Is or has there been collusion?  Trump wants Mueller fired.  Mueller has released no information about his investigation.  I believe he has hired fourteen or more extra-competent experienced attorneys to help conduct the investigation.  Trump’s attorneys have accused them of contributing to Democrats in prior elections.  Even though Trump wants Robert Mueller gone he can’t fire him by himself.  The Attorney General’s office hired him.  But the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the case.  Mueller was appointed by the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein after Session’s recusal.  In order to fire him now President Trump would have to fire the Deputy Attorney General and hire someone else who would be willing to fire him.  But if this were to happen then legislation is being worked upon or has passed through Congress that would allow Mueller to continue under the auspices of Congress.  Mueller would just continue what he is doing.

 

What will eventually happen?  I suspect that President Trump may be the second President to resign from his office or be impeached before he has served one full year as President of the United States.  If this happens then Mike Pence will be the next President.  I don’t suspect that the Republicans in Congress would be very unhappy over that.  I also suspect that the Republicans will lose their majority in the Senate and they may also lose or come close to losing their majority in the House of Representatives in the November 2018 Midterm Election.