It wasn’t that long ago that James Comey put Hillary Clinton in some hot water just before the election of 2016 and several in the media were all of a sudden pontificating about whether should could pardon herself if she’d won.
Here are a few examples:
Now, back to January 20, 2017. Could a future President Hillary Clinton pardon herself?
The short answer is she could certainly try, and may very well get away with it. What’s more, there is likely little Congress could do about it — even with a Republican controlled House of Representatives and Senate. Here is why.
The president’s pardon power comes from Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution that provides, “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
Based on the language of Article II, Section 2, the only limits placed on the power are that pardons may only be issued for federal offenses (not civil or state crimes), and a pardon cannot override the Congress’ impeachment power. Presidents have used this power to issue pardons in a wide range of matters throughout the country’s history. However, no president has ever attempted to pardon himself.
So, under this precedent, a President Hillary Clinton could pardon herself without the Congress being able to do anything about it.
By law, she could actually pardon herself and clear the record. A president can pardon any person, including the president.
What if Hillary Clinton were elected and then evidence of criminality were revealed. Could she, as president, pardon herself before any investigation was complete? This hypothetical has intrigued law professors and legal scholars since the Watergate scandal involving Richard Nixon, who did not pardon himself, but was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.
The answer to the question of whether a president may pardon him or herself is crystal clear: Nobody knows for sure.
Could Clinton pardon herself if she becomes president?
She most certainly can. The power of pardon is without limitation. A president can pardon any person, including the president, except in cases of impeachment. Richard Nixon contemplated pardoning himself. He was an “unindicted co-conspirator” in criminal indictments stemming from the Watergate investigation. In the end, he did not pardon himself. His successor, Gerald Ford, did it for him. But it was immensely unpopular and contributed to Ford losing the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter. It would be even worse, if a president pardoned him or herself. So, if Clinton were to issue her own pardon, she would be poisoning herself politically. It is the equivalent of admitting guilt, but evading the consequences. The public outrage would be deafening.
So Trump’s tweet from this morning wasn’t the first time this issue has ever come up. Would he be prudent not to discuss such things? Of course. But Trump isn’t really a prudent kind of guy when it comes to ‘strength’.
Since we’ve gone down memory lane, here’s something from almost a year before:
— MRCTV.org (@mrctv) January 29, 2016