He can’t, unless he can

On Friday the Post ran an editorial by Laurence Tribe, Richard Painter, and Norm Eisen, titled No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so.

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.

But Trump doesn’t care what makes sense and what doesn’t, so could he and his people just go ahead and do it anyway? Is there anyone who can stop him who would stop him? Millions of people would if they could, but among people who actually can, I don’t know what the numbers are.

President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussionwith the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.

But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.

He would love to be a first in all of human history.

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