Hours after he announced he was pardoning disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump indicated that he may want one of those pardons for himself.
Trump retweeted a post by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch Trump ally, that included a clip of an interview on Fox News from Tuesday. During the segment, the representative from Florida said the president should “pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials, to Joe Exotic if he has to.”
Gaetz added in his tweet on Wednesday that “the Left has a bloodlust that will only be quenched if they come for those who fought with @realDonaldTrump to deliver for the American people.”
The mention of Joe Exotic, the star of the hit Netflix show Tiger King, is a reference to a New York Times report this week that says Trump is being lobbied for a pardon by attorneys for the 57-year-old, who was given a 22-year jail sentence for plotting a murder-for-hire and various wildlife-related crime.
As Trump’s time in the White House comes to an end, many experts predict he will go on a pardoning spree on his way out the door — with friends and allies at the top of the list. As well as pardoning Flynn on Wednesday, Trump commuted the sentence of long-time supporter Roger Stone in July.
Trump’s impending departure has also led to speculation that he will seek to protect himself from possible federal investigations once he leaves the White House by pardoning himself.
No other sitting president has gone down this path, and the possibility that Trump could do so has split legal scholars.
Some argue that there is nothing in the constitution that forbids it, pointing out that Article II Section 2 simply says that the “President shall…have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States.”
But others point to a legal opinion from the Department of Justice published just days former President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, that read: “Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, it would seem that the question should be answered in the negative.”
Nixon of course resigned and was subsequently granted an unconditional pardon by his successor — and former vice president — Gerald Ford.
This could point to another possible route for Trump, who could step down before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, and hand power to Vice President Mike Pence, who could then pardon his former boss.
Of course, even if Trump is pardoned, it won’t protect him from investigations happening at the state-level, such as the one Manhattan Attorney General Cy Vance is currently pursuing into Trump’s business affairs
Whatever the legal scholars think, there is one person who is convinced that a U.S. president can pardon themselves.
"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?" Trump tweeted in 2018.