The power of the Presidential pardon is in the news. Apparently Robert Mueller has tasked one of his advisors to research “every legal precedent and limitation to the power of a presidential pardon”. The research isn’t very involved. It’s actually just one (1) Supreme Court case, specifically, with others merely reaffirming it. I’ll summarize it here shortly.
The pardon comes from the Constitution at Article II, Section 2:
[H]e shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
“Cases of impeachment” means only that the President cannot use his pardon power to keep an Executive Branch official from being impeached or reverse the effect of any conviction on impeachment. Impeachment is purely an act of Congress. Pardons extend only to actions subject to indictment and prosecution. And the President of the United States can only pardon those who are subject to Federal prosecution or court martial within the national Armed Forces.
One writer at Blue Dot Daily, however, seems to have a particularly interesting take on the matter:
The very first federal pardon Trump hands out will immediately set off a chain of events, starting with Dreeben getting in front of the Supreme Court, where he will undoubtedly win against Trump pardons, and at that moment there will be a legal precedent on the record.
As soon as Mueller and Dreeben win their first court battle, it will then mean Trump can’t pardon himself out of trouble on any level.
And earlier in the article, the writer tries to say that certain questions of the President’s pardon power have not been “Constitutionally established”:
It’s actually never even been Constitutionally established whether or not the president can pardon people to motivate them not to testify against him.
It also hasn’t been established if the president can pardon his own family members, or himself. Why? because no other president in history has even tried these things, so there is no legal precedent to determine if the president can do it, but that’s about to change.
Except it already has been established. From Ex parte Garland, 71 US 333 (1866) at 334, point 9:
The power of pardon conferred by the Constitution upon the President is unlimited except in cases of impeachment. It extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment. The power is not subject to legislative control.
The President can pardon anyone he wants of any actions potentially or actually subject to Federal criminal indictment, prosecution, or conviction. Including himself. No such pardon may be challenged in Court, and the power cannot be limited by Congress.
The long tradition of pardons in the United States and Great Britain is to give the executive, the President and the Monarch, respectively, broad authority to enact reprieves, commutations, and pardons, both conditional and not. And such authority under the Constitution is granted to the President without any limitation except that which is expressly found within the Constitution. Of which there is only one express limitation, leaving the exercise of the President’s pardoning power without any other limit, as has been repeatedly ruled by the Supreme Court of the United States.