The founding legal principle that no one should be a judge or jury in their own case is a well enunciated one. However, reports indicate that US President Donald Trump has suggested to his aides that he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency.
Trump’s White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, reportedly advised the President that he could face legal jeopardy for encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol building.
Trump has prepared a sweeping list of individuals he’s hoping to pardon in the final days of his administration that includes senior White House officials, family members and prominent rappers. However, the news of a possible self-pardon was first reported by The New York Times.
Trump is hoping to announce the pardons on January 19 — his final full day in office. The biggest question facing his legal team may be whether the president has the authority to pardon himself.
However, many constitutional lawyers and experts say a president cannot pardon him or herself as one cannot be a judge in his own case.
Trump has previously claimed the power, though it’s a matter of legal dispute and has never before been attempted by a president.
A self-pardon could also prove a major political liability and hamstring another presidential bid, with opponents sure to suggest the self-pardon amounted to an admission that he thought he might be prosecuted for breaking the law.
The only president to receive a pardon was Richard Nixon. A month after Nixon left office, his former Vice President, Gerald Ford, pardoned him for all crimes he committed in office. The move was widely criticised at the time. Ford supporters later blamed the pardon for his election loss two years later, though ultimately the pardon came to be seen as a move that helped the country move on from Watergate.