PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Late Tuesday, President Trump granted pardons and clemency to 20 individuals convicted of a variety of crimes from theft to murder.
The use of the pardon power by the President to help his supporters, including former members of Congress, convicted of wrongdoing has raised lots of questions.
The U.S. Constitution gives the President power “to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.” It’s usually an act of mercy by the President or to heal national wounds like the amnesty after the Vietnam War, but President Trump has taken pardons to a whole new level.
“There’s no comparison between President Trump’s pardons and other past presidents,” Ken Gormley, a constitutional scholar and Duquesne University president, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Gormley, who has researched and written on pardons, says this of Trump: “It’s as if he feels he has a magic card in his pocket that he can just play whenever he wants, and some of them have really been unprecedented,” says Gormley.
Trump, says Gormley, has jettisoned all the normal Justice Department safeguards and reviews to grant a pardon.
“President Trump is just doling them out as he sees fit, so it’s definitely a break with modern practice,” says the law professor.
Of course, other Presidents have granted pardons to family and friends convicted of crimes.
“It can be a family member – Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother Roger. It can be a close friend or political ally – George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger after the Iran-Contra Affair,” he says.
But can a President pardon someone for federal crimes that have not yet been charged?
That’s what President Ford did for President Nixon after the Watergate scandal, but there’s been no Supreme Court ruling on whether that pardon power is constitutional.
Some have speculated that President Trump will grant such pardons to his children and son-in-law.
And here’s the big question —
Delano: “Does President Trump have the power to pardon himself?”
Gormley: “I don’t believe he does.”
The result of such power, says Gormley, could really undermine the Constitution and the security of the Nation.
“If you think of the consequences of that, Jon, a president could be bribed and paid a billion dollars by a foreign adversary for the nuclear codes and leave the White House and then just pardon himself on the way out the door and never be prosecuted for bribery,” he says.
Will President Trump try to pardon himself?
The Supreme Court says to accept a pardon is an admission of guilt, something this President is very unlikely to do.