Ranking Member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) of the House Committee on the Judiciary, released the following statement in response to President Trump’s incorrect claims of an ‘absolute’ right to pardon himself, and that the Special Counsel investigation is ‘unconstitutional’:
“President Trump has asserted that he has the ‘absolute’ right to pardon himself and that the appointment of the Special Counsel is ‘unconstitutional.’ He thinks that, because he is the President, his actions cannot be an obstruction of justice. His lawyers think that he can ignore a subpoena from a federal grand jury, and threaten the Special Counsel accordingly.
“But President Trump is wrong.
“No President has ever attempted to pardon himself. The Framers of the Constitution understood the idea. James Madison told Edmond Randolph that the notion of a self-pardon was inherently corrupt, and argued that the Congress would surely act to remove such a President. These men had just fought a war against a king, and had no intention of turning their new nation over to another.
“The appointment of Special Counsel Mueller is clearly constitutional. We know this, in part, because Paul Manafort—the President’s old campaign manager—tried the same desperate argument in federal court last month. The court rejected that motion, and Manafort will rightly face trial for his alleged crimes in due course.
“The President is no different from other public officials who are regularly prosecuted for taking bribes in exchange for official acts or using their office to interfere with criminal investigations. President Trump may pressure the Director of the FBI to drop an investigation into his National Security Advisor, he may later fire that FBI Director, and he may engage in a months-long campaign to portray his own Department of Justice as corrupt—but if he does so with the specific intent to obstruct the work of the Special Counsel, then he may have committed a crime. No President is above the law.
“Finally, the President must comply with a properly issued subpoena. Yes, he is the President and, yes, as his attorneys argue, he has important work to do—but as the Supreme Court observed in U.S. v. Nixon, executive privilege is overcome by a specific request for evidence in an ongoing investigation. Special Counsel Mueller can almost certainly compel the President’s testimony if he requires it.
“President Trump can continue to whine about the investigation on Twitter. He can send his lawyers on television to make wild and unsubstantiated legal arguments. He can even resist the subpoena when it comes. But if he wants this investigation to end—and he clearly wants the ‘witch hunt’ to come to a close—then he should stop complaining, start cooperating, and let the Special Counsel do his job.”
If Trump tries to pardon himself, he will be toast
The self-pardon debate will end very quickly because if Trump tries it, he will be impeached. A presidential pardon doesn’t stop the impeachment process. Trump can pardon himself to make sure that he doesn’t end up in federal prison, but that won’t save him from potential state charges or keep him in office. The self-pardon will get Trump impeached. As Rep. Nadler’s argument shows that it is Democrats who are trying to protect US democracy from Trump and the Republican forces who appear hellbent on its destruction.