Final Pardon for Donald Trump: Why the President Didn’t Grant Clemency for Himself


With less than 12 hours left in the White House, Donald Trump has finally revealed exactly who he will be pardoning.

The rumor mill was in a state of overshoot, and Mr Trump would have been proactively forgiving himself and his children to protect them from any kind of legal action in the future.

However, the outgoing president did not take this unprecedented and legally questionable step.

Trump issued a complete pardon to 73 people and reduced sentences for 70 others.

According to David Gray Adler, a researcher in US constitutional law and president of the pro-democracy and not-for-profit organization The Alturas, Mr Trump effectively lost the power to pardon himself when he was impeached for a second time earlier this month.

The pardon clause in the US Constitution states that the president may grant amnesty for crimes against the United States – “except in impeachments.”

This provision bars Mr. Trump from pardoning anyone – including himself as president – who is held accountable.

Trump supporters climb the western wall of the US Capitol Building in Washington.  Photo / AP
Trump supporters climb the western wall of the US Capitol Building in Washington. Photo / AP

Impeachment charges are not pardoned in the United States and the presidential pardon also does not include potential state charges.

“Such a self-pardon would have little benefit given the kinds of legal challenges that Trump might have to face,” Adler wrote in an article for CNN.

“The presidential pardon does not include state crimes, which means he can still face charges arising from the state and city investigations currently underway in New York.”

Even if Mr. Trump wanted to pardon himself, he would likely take the case to the Supreme Court, a court that relies heavily on arguments and historical evidence.

Since there is no evidence in the Constitution or in any American legal history to support “the existence of such astonishing force, or any assertion to that effect by only one delegate at the conference, Trump’s hypothesis of self-pardon should be ludicrous. What a court as his assertion that the president wields “absolute” power, Adler argues.

The Capitol riots on January 6 were an example of Mr. Trump’s attempt to assert his “absolute authority” in Washington, DC, according to Adler.

However, it was an attempt that backfired in Trump becoming the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

Adler described the impeachment charges as “peace without you in a court of law.”

Five people were killed in riots at the US Capitol, which saw thousands of Trump supporters storm the government building and smash it.

Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington.  Photo / AP
Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington. Photo / AP

White House sources said earlier that Trump had discussed privately with advisers whether he would take the unusual step of pardoning himself.

The source, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Trump does not yet intend to pardon himself and does not intend to issue a proactive pardon to his family members, another topic he discussed privately with advisers.

Some administration officials have warned Trump not to pardon himself because it would make him appear guilty.

Many scholars have said that self-pardon would be unconstitutional because it violates the basic principle that no one should be the judge in their case.

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Others have argued that self-pardon is constitutional because the power to pardon is crafted too broadly in the constitution.

Historical texts make clear that the nation’s founders in the eighteenth century discussed self-pardon, but chose not to include explicit restrictions on that power.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives last week for inciting the storming of the US Capitol.

His case is set to face trial in the Senate, and if found guilty, he could be disqualified from seeking to run again for president in 2024.

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