US President Donald Trump may have the power to pardon himself of any wrongdoing related to Russian collusion in the US election, says his lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Speaking on ABC’s This Week program, Giuliani said Trump’s executive powers “probably” extended to pardoning himself.
Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution provides the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.”
On the face of it, there is nothing to restrict a President from using this power to reprieve or pardon themselves though the power has never been used in such a way.
Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City, also clarified that the President “has no intention of pardoning himself, but that doesn’t say he can’t.”
Giuliani noted in both this interview and to NBC that the political consequences of a President pardoning himself would be devastating.
“It would be an open question,” Giuliani said of whether Trump could make such a novel use of his executive powers.
“I think it would probably get answered by: ‘Gosh, that’s what the Constitution says’. But the reason it won’t is because then it becomes a political problem.
“If the president were to pardon himself, he’ll get impeached.”
The House Republican Majority Leader echoed these thoughts, telling CNN that a President should never pardon themselves.
Letter from Trump’s legal team leaked
The question arose after The New York Times obtained a confidential 20-page letter sent by Trump’s lawyers to the Special Counsel investigating possible Russian collusion in the 2016 US election.
JUST IN: Does Pres. Trump have the power to pardon himself?
"He's not, but he probably does," Rudy Giuliani tells @GStephanopoulos. "He has no intention of pardoning himself, but that doesn't say he can't." https://t.co/IEUEWnjQqe #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/IE1AocigYl
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 3, 2018
In the letter, Trump’s legal team argue Trump cannot be forced to testify.
Further, the letter outlines an argument that he could not possibly be found guilty of obstruction because his position as President gives him unfettered authority over all Federal investigations.
It argues “the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to obstructing himself.”
It goes on to say the President “could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.”
The letter then claims the President would not exercise his powers in this way but would co-operate with the Special Counsel due to a “strong desire for transparency,” rather than any legal obligation.
Giuliani was not part of Trump’s legal team when the letter was written but he confirmed the contents to ABC News.
Mueller has sought an interview with Trump to determine whether the President had criminal intent to obstruct the investigation into possible links between Russian election interference and Trump’s campaign.
Giuliani has warned that the President could face charges of perjury if such an interview goes ahead.
If Trump does not agree to be interviewed, Mueller would need to subpoena Trump in what would be an explosive political episode. Mueller has previously raised the possibility of a subpoena but it is not clear if he still intends to pursue this course of action.
“If Mueller tries to subpoena us, we’re going to court,” Giuliani said to ABC News.
“(Trump) believes he’s innocent. He believes if he gets the chance to explain it people will understand: no collusion with the Russians, no obstruction of justice.”
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 3, 2018
Background: Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion
Back in May 2016, Mueller was tasked with overseeing an ongoing investigation into possible Russian interference with the 2016 US presidential elections and any ongoing links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Trump had previously considered removing Mueller from the position. The investigation by the former FBI director has already led to a number of resignations. Campaign chair Paul Manafort and foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos are among those who have been forced to resign.
In February, Mueller indicted three Russian companies and 13 Russian nationals for their role in the 2016 US election.