Robert Mueller Gets Ready For Showdown With Donald Trump Over Pardons In Russia Investigation, Report Says

The man in charge of the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is gearing up for a likely showdown with Donald Trump if Trump tries to pardon any targets of the Russia investigation — including himself — according to a new report by Bloomberg News on Tuesday. Mueller has assigned one of his top deputies, Michael Dreeben, a powerhouse constitutional lawyer who has argued more than 100 cases before the United States Supreme Court, to find ways to possibly stop Trump from deploying the presidential pardon power in an attempt to block or slow the Russia probe, the report says.

In July, Trump gave a hint of what Mueller apparently believes he is planning if the Russia investigation closes in on him. In a message posted to his Twitter account, Trump claimed, “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon.”

But while the pardon power granted to the chief executive in the Constitution appears nearly all-encompassing, the Russia investigation may test whether that power actually has some limits, especially in the case of ongoing criminal investigations.

Read the full Bloomberg News story about Mueller’s attempt to rein in Trump’s pardon power at this link.

Trump Russia Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Robert Mueller. (Image By Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images)

“The questions that Dreeben is looking at likely focus on the limits of the President’s pardon power in unusual circumstances like pardons that would obstruct an investigation” wrote former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti on his Twitter account.

“Those questions are new and unanswered,” Mariotti wrote. “While there has been a lot of speculation over the past months, the language about the pardon power in the Constitution is very broad and the unusual circumstances that commentators (and now Dreeben) are considering never happened before.”

The only clear limits on a president’s power to pardon come in cases of impeachment proceedings, as well as state-level cases. The presidential pardon applies only to federal offenses. A president has no power to pardon offenders accused or convicted of state crimes.

But Dreeben, who one fellow lawyer says “has seen every criminal case of any consequence in the last 20 years,” is now investigating dozens, even hundreds, of past cases to determine if the pardon power has other limits besides the impeachment provision and the restriction on giving pardons for state offenses.

In addition to digging up new information on Trump’s possible ability to pardon associates, or anyone, implicated in the Russia collusion case, Mueller has also assigned Dreeben “to make sure the special counsel’s prosecutorial moves are legally airtight,” according to the Bloomberg report.

Most presidents issue hundreds of pardons over the course of their terms, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics. In his eight years in the Oval Office, President Barack Obama issued 212 pardons, while George W. Bush gave out 189 in his two terms. Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, who also served eight years as president, granted 396 pardons.

While Ronald Reagan with 393 granted more pardons than either Obama or Bush, those numbers are dwarfed by the torrents of pardons handed out by presidents earlier in the 20th century. Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, gave out 1,110 pardons, while his predecessor, Democrat Harry Truman, granted 1,913.

Trump, so far, in just over eight months, has handed down only a single pardon — to controversial right-wing Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was charged with contempt of court for defying a court order for him to stop arresting people based solely on his own suspicion that they had immigrated to the U.S. illegally. Though critics accused Trump of abusing his pardon power in the Arpaio case, a federal judge on Wednesday upheld the pardon.

[Featured Image by Jae C. Hong/AP Images]