The president of the United States just proclaimed publicly that he has the absolute right to pardon himself.
Donald Trump’s Monday-morning tweet indicated a way he thinks he could end special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion or obstruction of justice by the Trump campaign.
“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?”
“In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!” he added, presumably referring to some of Mueller's roughly 18 team members, though Mueller himself is a longtime Republican.
Trump’s Twitter post followed a pardon of right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza last week, and a Sunday interview by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in which he said the president “probably” has the constitutional authority to self-pardon. Legal opinions differ on the matter, but many observers say if Trump tried it, it would be a sure path to impeachment.
Giuliani’s comments came after a leaked letter was published Saturday by The New York Times sent from Trump’s legal team to Mueller, arguing that the president has the absolute power to end any investigation or “even exercise his power to pardon." The letter, which was dispatched to the special counsel in January, said the president’s role makes it impossible for him to obstruct justice.
Mueller is currently investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, and whether Trump obstructed justice as president by interfering in the FBI’s probe into Russian meddling by firing the bureau’s former director James Comey.
Speaking on ABC's “This Week,” Giuliani said Trump "probably does" have the power but “he has no intention of pardoning himself."
"I think the political ramifications of that would be tough. Pardoning other people is one thing. Pardoning yourself is another," Giuliani added.
Giuliani later appeared on NBC to clarify his earlier remarks, saying the president “pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment."
Trump responded to the letter Saturday on Twitter, claiming either special counsel or his own Justice Department was responsible for the leak.
In the ABC interview, Giuliani said Trump is unlikely to sit down for the interview requested by Mueller’s team, concerned the president could perjure himself.
"This is the reason you don't let this president testify in the special counsel's Russia investigation," Giuliani told George Stephanopoulos. "Our recollection keeps changing, or we're not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption."
Trump has previously stated he would attend an interview — even said he was eager to do it.
Should the Trump team definitively rule out an interview, Mueller could subpoena the president, though Trump’s legal team would likely try to block that avenue.
Later on Sunday, Giuliani made the remarkable claim that Trump could not be indicted as president “even if he shot [former FBI Director] James Comey.”
“I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is” he told HuffPost.
“If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day,” Giuliani added. “Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump boards Marine One as he departs the White House June 1, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Trump is traveling to Camp David. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Pool via CNP | usage worldwide Photo by: Chip Somodevilla/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images