White House officials are trying to discredit a Washington Post story last week that President Donald Trump is exploring whether he could pardon himself.
On Friday, the Post reported that Trump asked advisers whether he could pardon close associates and even himself, setting off speculation among legal experts that such a move could potentially provoke constitutional crisis.
This weekend, the administration has taken the stance it’s just not true. “He’s not going to do that,” said Anthony Scaramucci, the newly appointed White House Communications Director, when asked on CNN’s State of the Union if the president would pardon himself and his relatives over unspecified crimes. Scaramucci claimed that the president “isn’t thinking about pardoning nobody.”
“The president's not going to have to pardon anybody because the Russian thing is a nonsensical thing,” Scaramucci added.
Also on Sunday morning, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told ABC’s This Week that there were no conversations in the White House about pardons. “We’re not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table. There’s nothing to pardon from,” Sekulow said. “We have not and continue to not have conversations with the president of the United States about pardons.”
These accounts flatly contradict the Washington Post story, which reported that Trump had “asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself” in connection with special investigator Robert Mueller’s probe into his campaign ties to Russia. The notion that Trump is even considering pardoning himself has alarmed legal experts, who have pointed out how far the president is straying from precedent. No president in American history has tried issuing a self-pardon, and Trump’s reported willingness to entertain that discussion is shocking in its own right, no matter how preliminary the discussion.
Scaramucci’s defense of Trump comes on the heels of the President himself weighing in publicly on the matter. On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted that there would be no need to issue pardons because the “only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” by which he presumably means his family and administration.
While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
The Post story did stress that all discussions of pardons within Trump’s legal team have been purely theoretical, and gave no hint that pardons for Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr. were in the pipeline. Moreover, even according to the initial report in the Post, Trump has no imminent plans to issue a blanket protection to himself.
“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser to the president told The Washington Post.
If the Washington Post is right, Trump would be entertaining a breach of historical precedent that could set off a constitutional crisis because there’s a serious possibility that a self-pardon would not be upheld in court. “This is theater of the absurd,” Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor, told Vox’s Sean Illing. “The fact that we're even talking about it is a measure of how far we've fallen under Trump.”