The likeliness of presidents being able to pardon themselves


Madelyn Kidd, Editor-in-Chief

Following the Capitol Riot on Jan. 6, there were calls of action against former President Trump for encouraging an act of insurgency on Capitol Hill. Many theories circulated that even if charges were pressed against Trump, he would use his constitutional powers to pardon himself from those charges. This same theory circulated the first time the House of Representatives filed for impeachment, so it brings up the question. Could a president pardon themself from any previous criminal acts?

A poll was posted on The Navigator’s social medias to get the opinions of Lake Land College’s students, faculty and alumni. Our audience was asked, “Do you believe President Trump has the authority to pardon himself from any previous incriminating acts?” 31.58 percent of responders voted “Yes,” and 68.42 percent voted “No.”

Another poll was posted on The Navigator’s social medias asking our audience, “Do you believe President Trump will try to pardon himself from any previous incriminating acts?” 76.19 percent of responders voted “Yes,” and 23.81 percent voted “No.” Now that Trump is no longer in office, we know that the 23.81 percent were correct, former President Trump didn’t try to pardon himself during his last days in office.

However, the question is still pertinent, can presidents use their powers to pardon themselves? It’s plausible. This power comes from our Constitution Article II Section 2 Clause 1, which it states, “… [the president] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” This means that the only scenario where a president can’t use their power to pardon anyone is if it’s to pardon a case of impeachment. Hypothetically, based on our Constitution a president can pardon themself from any offences, just not impeachment. Doesn’t that just open up an endless barrel of questions.

When our country’s ancestors wrote the Constitution, did they not think about this loophole or did they think we would never have a president with an offence against the United States? Or is this where the country’s ability of impeachment is supposed to work, and they never thought the House or Senate wouldn’t impeach a president for their offences against our country? For the people who seemed to have thought through every other part of our Constitution, this seems like a very large and concerning loophole. 

Nevertheless, let’s discuss what could happen if a future president attempts this. Technically, you can’t appeal a president’s pardon, and no other part of our government gets to approve or disapprove a pardon. Therefore, no one can stop the president from pardoning himself. However, the public outrage will be extraordinary. People will be furious because in order to have something to pardon, you must have committed a federal offence. Then, most likely the House of Representatives will start the impeachment process, which the president can’t pardon themselves from. However, that’s only if you can impeach the president for that because they just pardoned themselves from punishment from the federal crimes that we could’ve impeached them for and using their presidential powers can’t lead to a reason to start the impeachment process.

After America finds out whether we can or can’t impeach them, there will be a bill for a Constitution amendment to fix this loophole. While, the Supreme Court can turn down the bill, to do so would be a detrimental mistake. If the United States doesn’t fix this loophole, and our citizens can see that the president can in fact pardon himself, what is stopping rich criminal citizens from running for president just to pardon themselves? Nothing, there’s nothing we can do to stop them if they get elected. Chaos will ensue, no one will have faith or trust in our Constitution or government anymore, which is saying a lot with the number of citizens that already don’t. Presidential elections and primaries will turn into a circus ring of rich criminals, and it will be terrible. However, that is why it’s doubtable the Supreme Court would deny the amendment, and then the problem will be solved. 

Ultimately, the amendment to our Constitution probably won’t happen until one President actually pardons themself, and America experiences what was previously explained would hypothetically happen or something similar. Following that, the Constitution will get amended, and it’ll never happen again.

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