Trump: Pardoning While Impeached?

CBJ — Now that U.S. President Donald Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives for a second time, legal experts are debating whether or not Trump has the authority to continue issuing pardons.

Trump was charged with “incitement of insurrection” after a mob of supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol one week ago. Five people died: one police officer and four Trump supporters.

The constitutionality of a self-pardon remains unclear, which means nobody can say for certain whether Trump could pardon himself.

In Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution it decrees that the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

But legal experts appear divided in what the clause “except in cases of impeachment” means. Bear in mind that the word “impeach” is the political equivalent of being “charged” with a crime. If the old adage “innocent until proven guilty” rings true then it would seem he could still issue pardons, but again, that is certainly debatable. To be convicted of incitement of insurrection the Senate would have to vote him guilty.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated a trial cannot possibly be concluded before Trump leaves office on January 20. McConnell sites examples of how previous articles of impeachment resulted in debates of anywhere from 22 to 83 days in order to give the accused a fair trial. Regardless of whether someone is fervently pro or anti-Trump, the law is on his side to ensure he gets a trial, with evidence heard from both sides.

While a number of experts offer differing opinions, many seem to agree that Trump can’t stop the current impeachment process against him, or undo an impeachment conviction, but he can still pardon any related crimes.

The House voted 232-197 to impeach the president, with five non-votes. Of the 232 who voted for impeachment 222 were Democrats and 10 were Republicans.

A two-thirds majority is still needed in the Senate in order to convict and remove Trump, which means 17 Republicans would have to vote that way. Based on House voting results and the fact that Senate Republicans still seem largely loyal to Trump, it’s still doubtful that a conviction would occur even if it were quickly jammed through the Senate, and as noted, McConnell has already stated that won’t be happening. At this point the only way Trump will leave office before the end of his term is if he resigns, a move that seems highly unlikely although not impossible.

There is some precedence to this confusing Trump situation. Former President Bill Clinton pardoned 34 people between his impeachment on December19, 1998 and his acquittal on February 12, 1999.

In theory, Trump could issue a blanket pardon that covers himself and his children up until the time he leaves office.

Several of Trump’s high-profile pardons have created a huge amount of public controversy, including the pardoning of four Americans convicted of killing Iraqi citizens, his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, ex-confidante Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka.