Donald Trump Pardoning Himself Would Be ‘Even Greater Abuse’ Than Bill Clinton’s Pardon Misuse, Attorney Says

U.S. President Donald Trump shushes journalists before signing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act in the Rose Garden at the White House.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

American attorney Jonathan Turley penned an op-ed for The Hill on Saturday, where he argued that Donald Trump could pardon himself, but shouldn’t. In particular, the legal scholar claimed this course of action would be a greater abuse of presidential pardon power than the use of clemency by former President Bill Clinton.

Turley opined that all U.S. leaders “regularly engage in all forms of self-dealing” and noted that Clinton pardoned his own half-brother and appointed his wife to head a committee to overhaul the United States’ health care system.

According to the columnist, the Constitution does not prohibit such self-dealing in the same away it does not explicitly prohibit self-pardons.

“This is why Trump can pardon himself and why he should not do so. Just as I denounced Clinton for abusing the pardon powers, I believe such a step by Trump would be an even greater abuse. In other words, it would be as constitutional as it would be wrong.”

President Bill Clinton listens to speeches during the World War II Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony on the National Mall November 11, 2000, in Washington.
  Alex Wong / Getty Images

Earlier in the piece, Turley noted that law experts have claimed Trump and his family could face impeachment or prosecution for various offenses. These same experts, he said, are now confidently stating Trump cannot issue himself a presidential pardon.

According to USA Today, the Department of Justice policy does not allow the head of state to pardon himself. Specifically, an Office of Legal Counsel opinion dated Aug. 5, 1974, states it’s not possible because no individual can be a judge when their official actions would affect themselves.

“Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself,” it reads.

The opinion noted the head of state could remove themselves from their position via the 25th amendment and receive a pardon from the vice president.

USA Today highlighted that legal experts remain conflicted on the issue of self-pardons. Given that courts have never been tested on the topic, many news outlets — including Forbes, Vanity Fair, and The Independent — have speculated that Trump will try to offer himself clemency.

According to author Jeffrey Crouch, Trump and Clinton’s pardon scandals can help President-elect Joe Biden fix the process. In an op-ed for NBC News, he argued that Biden should resist following the same path as his predecessors, who used pardons to help themselves and their allies.

“No matter what system Biden implements, he should establish a regular process, rely on it and ignore the poor examples set by Clinton and Trump.”