Republicans say that Trump pardoning himself would be catastrophic

  • President Donald Trump said he has “the absolute right” to pardon himself.
  • Many constitutional scholars and experts disagree.
  • Senate Republicans, even those who voted to remove Bill Clinton in the 1990s, said they were unsure if Trump could do so, but cautioned that it would be a political and legal disaster.

WASHINGTON — Can the commander-in-chief pardon himself? President Donald Trump sure thinks so, even though lawmakers broadly agree that such action would be “catastrophic” for him from both a legal and political perspective.

“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” Trump mused on Twitter Monday morning. “In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!”

Legal experts dismissed the idea that Trump — or any president — would be allowed to pardon himself for anything. While there has yet to be precedent for such a thing, constitutional structure for that kind of overreach already exists.

But in the Senate, which is a co-equal branch of government to the executive, Republican lawmakers were all over the place about what is and is not legal for the president.

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Trump delivering speeches through the years

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U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he delivers a speech during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech on tax reform legislation at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Utah State Capitol, where he announced big cuts to Utah’s sprawling wilderness national monuments, in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his speech as he and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man/Pool

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech on tax reform in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump turns his back to the crowd during his speech at a rally for Senator Luther Strange at the Von Braun Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S., September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

US. President Donald Trump gives a public speech at Krasinski Square, in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech on US-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver a speech on US-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech during Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a USA Thank You Tour event in Orlando, Florida, U.S., December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at the USA Thank You Tour event at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center in West Allis, Wisconsin, U.S., December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump speaks at event at Carrier HVAC plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Bergin

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

U.S. President elect Donald Trump speaks at election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President elect Donald Trump speaks at election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at his final campaign event at the Devos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Sarasota, Florida, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump rallies with supporters in a cargo hangar at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida, U.S. November 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider that “may be right from a strictly legal standpoint, but I don’t think it’s helpful in terms of the conclusion of the investigation.”

“If I were president of the United States and I had a lawyer that said I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, the highest-ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told CNN.

Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters that he would “advise everybody from the president to the people operating the elevator don’t obstruct justice.”

“Politically it would be a disaster,” Graham said. “Legally, I don’t know.”

But Graham noted that drawing from history would be a significant factor in looking at the legality of such a bold action, despite Trump’s confidence in his ability to self-pardon.

“We do know that [former President Richard Nixon], one of the subsets of impeachment, was improper use of pardoning authority, that that was seemed to be an abuse of office,” Graham said. “What you’re talking about is abuse of office here. What role, I mean you’re the chief law enforcement officer of the land — that doesn’t make you above the law itself.”

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine echoed Graham and others that Trump pardoning himself would do irreparable damage to his presidency and the institution.

“It may well be an open question debated by constitutional scholars,” Collins said. “But there’s no doubt that if the president were ever to pardon himself, it would have catastrophic implications for him and for our country.”

Sen. Richard Shelby, who is just one of several senators still in office who voted for a guilty charge of Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice, said Trump “could probably” pardon himself, but could quickly turn against his favor.

“I’ve always said I didn’t think anybody was above or below the law,” Shelby said.

SEE ALSO: Trump’s all-out trade war is rattling Washington — even his strongest allies

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