Can Trump Just Pardon Himself and His Family Members?

The president has long called the investigation into his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia a “witch hunt.” Now that special counsel Mueller and his team is able to study evidence of any crime it encounters in the probe — including tax fraud, lying to federal agents and interference in the investigation – Trump may be feeling the pressure.

Image Source: cnn.com

Image Source: cnn.com

President Trump has asked his lawyers whether he can pardon himself or his family members. It appears that Trump is especially concerned that Mueller will investigate his family business and finances, including past deals with Russians.

Can A U.S. President Pardon Himself for Crimes?

First, a president can’t be prosecuted for crimes federally while in office, so a pardon would only be of legal significance after he left office.

Second, a president can pardon an individual at any point, including before the person is charged with a crime.

Third, a pardon provides legal immunity from criminal liability for some action, and the pardon must be presented to a court. At that point, a court would have to rule whether to accept the pardon as valid. Given the untested nature of this question, it may well be the Supreme Court deciding whether the President (or former President by that time) can pardon himself.

Fourth, a presidential pardon does not immunize anyone from criminal prosecution by any of the fifty states. The president can only pardon federal crimes. For example, the Florida attorney general could still prosecute Trump for tax fraud even if Trump received a presidential pardon.

Image Source: linkedin.com

Image Source: linkedin.com

According to fifteen legal experts, though, the Constitution isn’t clear about this. Clearly,  this is just not a situation the framers expected. Moreover, no President has ever tried it, not even Nixon. Most of the experts believe if he did try to pardon himself, it would be both an admission of guilt and create a potential constitutional crisis. Certainly, there is also a common-law rule that a person cannot serve as a judge in his own case, but the exact question of a President pardoning himself has never been before the federal courts.

However, even if Trump could not legally pardon himself, he would likely just make a deal with his successor (President Pence?) to obtain a pardon after he left office, just as Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.

Can President Trump Pardon His Family Members, Aides, and Associates?

Yes. There is no doubt that President Trump could pardon his family members and aides for federal crimes. The most obvious reason for issuing pardons now would not be to protect any of the key people from prosecution or prison, but to limit Mueller’s leverage over them as witnesses against Trump.

Palm Beach House Sold by Trump to Russian Oligarch at Huge Profit Image Source: palmbeachdailynews.com

Palm Beach House Sold by Trump to Russian Oligarch at Huge Profit
Image Source: palmbeachdailynews.com

However, it’s possible such a pardon could be treated as part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice. Furthermore, while a pardon immunizes a person from prosecution, it does not shield them from the subpoena power of Congress. In fact, their immunization from prosecution may actually make it more difficult to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. And if Trump’s family members or aides lie to Congress under oath, that could constitute a new crime not covered by a previous pardon.

If Trump Can Pardon Himself, Does That Protect Him From Impeachment?

No. Even if Trump pardoned himself that would not shield him from impeachment hearings. The Constitution specifically provides that the pardon power does not prevent — or undo — an impeachment. The Constitution specifically rules out the possibility of pardoning someone for impeachable offenses.

What do you think? A central tenet of American democracy is often stated as, “No man is above the law.” Should the president have the power to pardon himself for crimes?

50 comments on “Can Trump Just Pardon Himself and His Family Members?

  1. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Anderson on

    No one man or woman should be able to get away with the thousands of criminal activities Trump & his cronies have gotten away with!!! Surely, 1 of these criminal activities he must be held accountable! Making him a one term president isn’t enough, he needs to pay for his crimes just like any of the rest of us,nwhether it’s State, local,mor federal crimes. Someone has got to be able to stop this insanely criminal person!?!?!?!?! JUSTICE FOR ALL, ALL MEN & WOMEN ARE CREATEDVEQUAL

    Reply
  2. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Patrick Corrigan on

    If Trump were to pardon himself and his family members it would show how guilty he really is.Biggest crook ever. What a worthless human being.The dog and pony show must go on.

    Reply
  3. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Carl Birkle on

    I think the president should be up to him to pardon whomever he pleases, and should be a blanket coverage…not just federal…

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  4. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  5. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Rick White on

    History shows that President Ulysses S. Grant was arrested by Washington D.C. policeman William H. West for driving his horse & carriage too fast down a street…Speeding.
    “In one version of various stories relating to West and Grant, in 1872 West was patrolling on foot near 13th and M Streets in Washington DC, when he stopped the President for speeding in his horse and buggy and released with a warning for excessive speed. The next day, West observed Grant repeating the behavior, and arrested him.
    ‘I am very sorry. Mr. President, to have to do it, for you are the chief of the nation and I am nothing but a policeman, but duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest.’
    Grant was taken to the police station and released on a $20 bond (equivalent to $430 in 2019). Grant did not contest the fine or arrest.”
    And he didn’t Pardon himself either….

    Reply
  6. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    D. Torres on

    No he should not be able to pardon him self. This a admission of guilt anyway. We live in a democracy NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW. If you done wrong then you should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    Reply
  7. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Sydney on

    It’s quite clear that the president pardoning himself is not clear legally. Since no President in the history of our nation has done it not even Richard Nixon.

    Reply
  8. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  9. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Kurt Casteel on

    Absolutely not. The President should be able to use that power to pardon people who have been unjustly prosecuted and resiliency and convicted. By no means should the president be able to Pardon himself of a crime

    Reply
  10. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Mike E on

    No man is above the law. Period.

    The possibility to presidential pardon have and will be used for personal gain which current administration and president clearly shown . I am a independent and don’t judge politic.

    This is very upsetting in what was the greatest democracy in the world.

    Reply
  11. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  12. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Rob Kanallakan on

    He should not be able to pardon himself. This is an admission of guilt. He should only be able to pardon someone charged or convicted of a crime. The law cant assume something may happen.

    Reply
  13. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    James Purdy on

    No a President can’t pardon himself. No one is above the law. If he could pardon himself that would make him his own judge and jury. Which would put him above the law.

    Reply
  14. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Barbara Mezo on

    No President should ever be allowed to Pardon himself or those he conspired with against the Federal laws. This only creates dictators.

    Reply
  15. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Umara Nilsson on

    The answer is NO. One should not be able to blanket pardon himself or others. They should only be pardoned if found guilty of a crime, not before. It should serve to deter crimes committed by the President or those instructed by the President to commit.

    Reply
  16. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Art Twain on

    No. The President should not have the right to pardon himself for crimes. No one should have the right to pardon himself or herself for crimes. If that were possible, it would open the door for unfettered criminal activity, knowing that one could just erase their illegal activities at the end of the trail.
    Carrying a “get out of jail” card in one’s wallet allows for “go to jail” activities without the fear of retribution or justice being served.

    Reply
  17. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    George Worley on

    The Constitution of the United States of America doesn’t have anything in it concerning weather a sitting POTUS can be prosecuted. The manner of prosecution of setting is a matter of DOJ policy not Constitutional Law.

    Reply
  18. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Mark MacLucas on

    Thanks for your analysis! Another question still lingers, however. If the President does manage to pardon himself, and accepts his own pardon, he is effectively admitting his own guilt. If he admits his guilt, and confesses to his criminality by accepting the pardon, can he legally run for federal office again?
    I appreciate your response!

    Reply
  19. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Margo Hays on

    OF COURSE NOT
    We are a country that relies heavily on our laws, so much so that it completely overshadows our own moral fortitude. I am sure the framers did not see that we would have such a corrupt government that this pardon power would even come into play. This is just one more thing in government that our framers meant for good and our corrupt government has exploited. We clearly need an amendment to this because it is being used and abused.

    Reply
  20. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Stan on

    No I don’t think that a president should have the power to pardon himself that would seem that the President would be above the law no one should be above the law if that would be so our country would no be a democracy

    Reply
  21. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jim Caldwell on

    No, the President should not be above the law. He should not have the power to pardon himself from investigation of treason after he leaves office, or any other crime. If he is suspected of treason he should be unable to leave the United States until after the completion of an investigation the 100% clears him.

    Reply
  22. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  23. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Bob Stryker on

    There would be no standing in court for a general, unspecified pardon for some, or all possible future crimes that the pardoned individual may or may not commit. Without any indictment of a specific crime, the court cannot uphold such a pardon would have to be made after a specific indictment, not on the basis of what if…

    You did mention “some action” but if there was no specified “action”, a pardon cannot by given. Therefore, as I understand, there are no federal indictments – yet – for Trump or any of his associates. If any are issued (probably) they would certainly be served sometime after January 20th, but within the statute of limitations for such crime. Excluding NY States probable indictments to come later next year,Trump cannot pardon himself because he has not yet been formally accused of any specific crime….again, next year after the 20th.

    I doubt that any court would even consider such a pardon. But then Trump claims he knows more than his generals; doctors and even his lawyers!

    Reply
  24. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Mike Westphal on

    No president should be abel to pardon himself or anyone else prior to being accused of a crime. By allowing this to happen he could potentially
    commit any federal crime and claim it was covered by the pardon. Would that include treason?

    Reply
  25. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Sam on

    Well there are a litany of illegal activities the trump crime family has been involved in. And I would imagine tax evasion is top of the list for all of them… e is a con man who never should have been elected. Biden however does have the stomach for that I don’t think and he has a crises to deal with. No matter what you can’t stop him from doing what he wants to do as he thinks he’s above the law. But he should be charged for wreckless disregard for this pandemic and for treason for openly trying to overthrow our government. He’s a crook we simply don’t have enough time to deal with the idiot.

    Reply
  26. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Penny on

    This is totally unreal!!! His has the right to get,;”get out of jail” card? This isn’t monopoly. This isn’t right. How can you pardon before a crime! You have to know what the crime is to pardon that crime.
    That is totally ridiculous!!!!!!!

    Reply
  27. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    AnnieRe on

    Absolutely not! He can’t be his own judge and jury; if that were the case, what prevents any/all future presidents from committing federal crimes while in office?

    Reply
  28. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    John F Coleman on

    Does this mean he would be pardoned from all future federal crimes??? That doesn’t make any sense, so they can commit a federal crime after their pardoned and you can’t go after them???

    Reply
  29. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Gustavo on

    It would be unfair for the president to grant a pardon to himself and his children in advance of federal charges against any of them. That would give them power that no one else in the country would have. Especially since it is known that they are a family used to breaking the law

    Reply
  30. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    bill scarlett on

    my concerns are not for crimes that pres.trump did not commit. my concern would be if biden becomes president and he pardons himself, his family, and his other friends from their many real crimes which the left is determined to cover up.

    Reply
  31. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Liane Fleury on

    I think it’s absolutely wrong that a president has the ability to not only pardon himself but members of his family who have worked as part of his administration. Family working in the White House with him is wrong enough and I thought that was against the law. Should Just tell them they can do whatever they please and not worry about it! This pres has done more and gotten away with more than any other pres. Something needs to change. No one should be above the law especially someone in charge of running this country.

    Reply
  32. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Scott burns on

    No- no man is above the law. If you do the crime then do the time. To pardon convicted murders such as blackwater and trump himself is in itself an admission of guilt. This simply send a singal if your on trumps good list then you can do no wrong. Trump will protect you. He is an idiot moron that should be sent to prison for the crimes against tu us. The destruction of the us contiution and the race to damage the life of American public. This man needs to be stopped now. Congress do your job represent the American way of life

    Reply
  33. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Kenneth Gorenc on

    No the president should not be allowed to pardon anyone. Pardons should be only up to the Supreme Court, by changing this law I believe it would slow down on corruption. By entering office you put your hand on the Bible and took up an oath.
    You should have to stand by that oath or pay the consequences.
    Once impeached you must immediately step down and leave office.

    Reply
  34. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    John Peeler on

    In this case, Trump should pardon himself, his entire family, and anyone else possibly associated with alleged wrongdoing of any kind. The democrats staged an illegitimate investigation and prosecution of Trump without a shred of evidence. They practically destroyed his first term in office, then stole his second term. He and everyone associated with him should have complete immunity from any further harassment from those traitors.

    Reply
  35. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Shelia Grady on

    Absolutely not!! No one, not even the president is above the law in the United States Of America! If that were to be accepted, then The United States would have no true equal justice system. And it would encourage presidents to be lawless, and then just pardon themselves. It would completely destroy our democracy!

    Reply
  36. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    RENE on

    Mo one person should be above the law, a president just like any official should and must be held to a higher standard, especially elected officials and definitely the President. A President is no different than any other person. If he committed crimes, especially crimes against the Country and Constitution he has sworn to protect, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. NO IS ABOVE THE LAW! ESPECIALLY A PRESIDENT!!!

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  37. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  38. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Gail Barzelay on

    The Constitution needs to be updated with wording that states that a sitting President cannot pardon himself in any case while he is in office and after he has left office. The current President has committed felonies and should need to pay the price for hurting the United States by his crimes. We need to protect this democracy by updating the constitution.

    Reply
  39. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Tammie Good on

    I don’t think he should be able to pardon himself. That’s like admitting wrong doing and he should be hels accountable.

    Reply
  40. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Antoinette on

    Like it states no man is above the law.
    He should not be able to pardon himself. citizens don’t have this right you do the crime you do the time.
    Criminal Justice System is broken already him doing this would make me a protester

    Reply
  41. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    J owens on

    No. To do so would be the writing of a blank check for a president to behave as dictator with no restraints. This would be the impetus for dangerous civil behavior and extreme lawlessness in America. I believe that a president who willfully commit crimes should be considered unfit and a threat to our democracy and removed from office and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and not eligible for pardon by the next president as well as having all post benefits forfeit and confined in prison as metered by law.

    Reply
  42. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  43. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Judith Palmer on

    The President should not be allowed to pardon himself!! And why would he pardon his family or anyone else, less there was a crime committed. How in this country, can these things happened!??? He is responsible a coudet that he himself ordered on the same day he gave a speech to “his to militants” to go to the Capitol and stop the certification of our new president and Vice President. Why can’t they remove him because he will go as far as possible! Why not when he incited the rioterS to go and would pay for any money they incurred? He sat in the Oval Office watching the show? Why is he still there? re Republicans that much involved to kiss his ass about overthrowing our government? He has ruined Our country since he became president!! He should be somewhere held in solitude. NOT IN THE OVAL OFFICE!!

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  44. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    C. Powell on

    No!! A sitting president should not have the power to pardon himself Period!! They are not above the law… and should not be able to excuse themselves from criminal action while in office.. specially the acts of treason that trump has committed.

    Reply
  45. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Mary on

    Yes because I feel they are in way making an admission of guilt. If you haven’t broken the law why would you need a pardon?…..
    So absolutely allow them to pardon themselves that way when they leave office and are charged it makes it almost impossible to invoke the 5th amendment.

    Reply
  46. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Geoffrey Ryan on

    If a pardon obtained by bribery is invalid, can any pardon issued to people that contributed to Trump’s political campaign be considered bought? Equally, any person that obstructed justice during the Muller investigation that later received a pardon for federal crimes could have purchased the pardon through their action rather than money. Is there a process in place to revoke presidential pardons if a justice department investigation determines that it was paid for with money of actions?

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  47. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  48. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Maxine Bogash on

    No pardons for this tyrant fascist or Nazi Stephen Miller who are responsible for 400,000 American deaths plus 5 more from the insurrection at the Capitol and 1 more at Charlottesville.
    They are mass murderers!
    Time to outlaw the Nazi cultists
    as fomenters of hate-speech, violence and murder! Or is this country waiting for 11 million more to be killed?

    Reply
  49. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Colleen on

    “ No man is above the law” so he SHOULD NOT have the power to pardon himself or his family members for any reason. I believe, “If you do not want to do the time, the do not do the crime.” They all made a conscious choice to do the things they did and if this includes crimes then they need to be prosecuted for those crimes based on the law.

    Reply
  50. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock

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