After Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that he possessed the “complete power” to pardon, new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci shot down speculation that the president might use that power to pardon himself. In an interview on Sunday with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Scaramucci elaborated:
I’m in the Oval Office with the president last week, we’re talking about that. He brought that up, he said but he doesn’t have to be pardoned. There’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned. He was just making the statement about the power of pardons. And so, now, all of the speculation and all the spin, and oh, he’s going to pardon himself and do all this other nonsense — the president does not need to pardon himself. And the reason that he doesn’t need to pardon himself is he hasn’t done anything wrong.
Scaramucci’s revelation that he had spoken with the president about pardons didn’t quite meld with the message from Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who told ABC News’ George Stephanopolous on Sunday that “pardons have not been discussed and pardons are not on the table.” Sekulow later went on to say that “it’s never been adjudicated, whether a president could pardon himself” and that “there’s a big academic discussion going on right now” about the scenario.
Indeed, the question of self-pardoning has never been fully resolved, and it may take a Supreme Court ruling, if things get that far, to gain real clarity on the issue.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post on Friday, constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe, former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, and Brookings Institution senior fellow Norm Eisen made a forceful case that the president cannot self-pardon, based on the “enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.” But Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, wrote on the same day for the same publication that “Trump clearly possesses the authority to pardon associates and family members under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.”
One thing is clear: A debate around how pardon power relates to oneself and one’s family members is exactly the conversation President Trump wants to be provoking six months into office.