According to the Founding Fathers, Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio is an abuse of presidential pardoning power that is an impeachable offense.
Writing for Bloomberg, Cass Sunstein examined the writings of the Founding Fathers on the president’s impeachment powers:
Gently, Madison pointed to “one security in this case to which gentlemen may not have adverted.” The security was that “if the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; [and] they can remove him if found guilty.” In Madison’s view, “This is a great security.”
More broadly, Madison urged that if the president was merely “connected, in any suspicious manner,” with someone who was engaged in wrongdoing, and if he decided to “shelter” (meaning pardon) him, then the president could be impeached.
The president does have the power to pardon, but that power is not complete as Trump has suggested. The Founding Fathers expressed the belief that a president can be impeached for abusing his pardoning power. If Democrats take back the House, Trump’s pardon of Arpaio alone could be viewed as an impeachable offense. Donald Trump doesn’t have the unlimited presidential power that he thinks he does.
His pardon of Arpaio was a disgrace to the presidency, but the even bigger question which the courts may someday have to resolve is, does a president have complete impeachment power?
If the answer is no, Trump may have just pardoned his way into impeachment.