Could a US president legally pardon himself?
#101243. Asked by star_gazer. (Nov 24 08 1:16 PM)
No one knows the answer. The Constitution says that the president "shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." This sentence, like many in the Constitution, can reasonably be interpreted in several ways. And since no court has ruled on this issue--because no president has ever tried to pardon himself--it remains an open question.|
In the United States, the pardon power for Federal crimes is granted to the President by the United States Constitution, Article II, Section 2, which states that the President:
shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
The Supreme Court has interpreted this language to include the power to grant pardons, conditional pardons, commutations of sentence, conditional commutations of sentence, remissions of fines and forfeitures, respites and amnesties. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pardon
Here's the same take...And I quote:|
We know that a president can pardon anyone, for any reason, and for any federal crime (except in cases of impeachment), not only after a conviction has been handed down in trial, but before any trial has even taken place, indeed before any charges have even been filed -- as Gerald Ford infamously pardoned Richard Nixon for Watergate; as George H. W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, Elliott Abrams and various CIA officials accused and/or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra affair; as Bill Clinton pardoned his brother, Roger, for drug trafficking and financier Marc Rich for tax evasion (after Rich's wife made a significant donation to the Clinton Presidential Library); and as current President George W. Bush more recently commuted "Scooter" Libby's prison term.
So -- can Bush do it? Can he pardon himself before leaving office?
According to attorneys whom I asked, there is no definitive legal answer. There is no case law on the subject and not even much legal analysis of the possibility. All there seems to be are three law review articles that analyze the self-pardon power with arguments for and against its legality. (I am convinced by the arguments against its legality, but given the present Supreme Court, who knows?).
You might be interested in a much less troublesome -- and perfectly legal -- route that Bush can take to avoid prosecution.
He can simply pardon Cheney (and everyone else) and immediately resign. Cheney then becomes president and pardons him. Short, sweet, and -- after consulting with an attorney -- perfectly legal.
Regarding presidential immunity, a scathing critique of Pres. Clinton and his, um, affairs, states:|
"...the Court has long recognized the right of limited presidential immunity with regard to official acts -- actions carried out under the auspices of the office of the presidency. This tradition goes back to Spalding v. Vilas (1896). There the Court held: "In exercising the function of his office, the head of an Executive Department, keeping within the limitations of his authority, should not be under any apprehension that the motives that control his official conduct may at any time become the subject of inquiry in a civil suit for damages. It would cripple the proper and effective administration of public affairs as entrusted to the Executive Branch of the government if he were subject to any such restraint."
But the same article insists this applies only to official acts, not to personal imbroglios.
I'm not deliberately picking at Pres. Clinton, only happened to find this reference, and, furthermore, I don't think Pres. Bush is in serious peril of needing a pardon for anything. Something like half of our presidents have waged war, often against popular opinion and always with harm done to both soldiers and civilians. The Kellogg-Briand Pact attempted to outlaw war, but never worked.
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