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Can The President Really Pardon Himself?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- On Monday, President Donald Trump said he could pardon himself in the Russia probe.

"As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?" he tweeted.

So, can the president pardon himself?

Over the past year, the headlines and opinion pieces have ranged from "Yes" to "No" to "We aren't sure." Even Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, didn't appear to be 100-percent certain on Sunday.

"He's not, but he probably does," Giuliani told ABC This Week.

The legal issues aren't entirely settled because no past presidents have ever tried to or asserted they can pardon themselves.

"The text of the Constitution is not clear on the issue," says Hamline University law professor David Schultz. "The weight of most scholars suggest that the president of the United States cannot do that."

Article II of the U.S. Constitution says, "he [the president] shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment."

Some experts have argued a self-pardon would be allowed because the Constitution doesn't specifically rule it out.

"It leaves pretty broad language for the president to be able to use pardons for a variety of purposes," Schultz says.

But, the issue is far more complicated than that.
According to University of Minnesota Law professor Jill Hasday, a self-pardon would violate two fundamental principles of U.S. law.

The first principle is the "rule of law" which implies the U.S. is governed by laws, rather than a king. The second is the "opposition to self-dealing," which implies someone can't be a judge in their own case.

A 1974 memo from the U.S. Justice Department says: "Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself."

But, a president can almost certainly legally pardon anyone but himself, including family members, in federal and criminal cases.

And, like President Ford did with President Nixon, a president can even pardon someone else in anticipation of a crime.

If Trump tries to pardon himself, which he says won't happen, some Republicans predict he would immediately be impeached.

In response to questions about Trump's tweet on Monday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "Thankfully, the president hasn't done anything wrong and wouldn't need one."

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