OP-ED: Donald Trump and the Ethics of Presidential Pardoning

Or will this be a Precedential Pardon?

OP-ED: Donald Trump and the Ethics of Presidential Pardoning

Ellie O’Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Junior

It’s been over a month since all major news networks projected Joe Biden as the president-elect and just a few days since the electoral college certified the results. After all this time, President Trump still refuses to accept reality and concede. Despite his insistence that the election was a hoax and that he actually won, it seems that Trump and his goonies have seen the writing on the wall and are rushing pardons for anyone and everyone who seems to “need” one. There’s no debate that he can’t hand out pardons like Oprah with cars, however, the line blurs when discussing his ability to pardon himself. 

As of January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will no longer be protected under federal court as Commander in Chief. Once he is removed from office, there’s a somewhat large chance that he will face trial for what may be considered criminal offenses. As of right now, the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., is pursuing an investigation, not yet criminal, into Trump’s business affairs. Other investigations are being called for a financial investigation into his 2016 and 2020 campaign earnings, sexual assault allegations, and he’s currently facing multiple lawsuits regarding defamation of character.

Were the president to pardon himself, lots of problems would arise as to what this means for the nature of the presidency. For one, to accept a pardon is in itself an admission of guilt. Were Trump completely innocent, there would be no need for a presidential pardon. After all, you should only be worried if you did something wrong… right?

Trump says he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself, but is that actually true? The water gets murkier the more thought one puts into the topic. As previously stated, the president is already immune from being taken to court, should Trump be able to pardon himself, it gives the president far more immunity than ever before. To paraphrase Ilya Shapiro, director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, in a hypothetical world, should a president pardon themselves, they would be subject to impeachment. As said before, the pardon would be an admission of guilt. Shapiro says, “…It would be too late to impeach a president who pardons himself the morning of his successor’s inauguration. But then his fate would be left to the judgment of history.” 

If Trump were to pardon himself, it may set a dangerous precedent for presidents to come. The action of pardoning oneself essentially gives the president the ability to be above the law. For one, we shouldn’t be electing potential criminals–that would solve this issue entirely. However, it’s obvious that this may not always be the case. No one, including the president, should be put above the law, nor should they be given the opportunity to do so. A presidential pardon of himself would not only be bad for Trump and his legacy but would set a dangerous precedent for the future of the nation.