President Donald Trump has the absolute Constitutional power to pardon any of his family, advisers, campaign staff, former and current appointees, and former business associates (including at Trump corporations), regardless of how controversial doing so might be. Issuing a pardon certainly sounds easy, much like waving a magic wand to slam the door shut on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. However, the decision is complicated with real ramifications for all those pardoned, and likely Trump’s Presidency.
Amid media reports that Mueller has expanded his investigation beyond Russia’s campaign interference and obstruction issues into Trump family business dealings, further raising the President’s ire, the Washington Post reported Thursday night that the President “has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself.” Separate altogether from the historically unprecedented constitutional question of the President pardoning himself, the mere notion of wholesale pardons throughout Trump’s personal, business and political spheres itself is of historical proportion. There is precedent, surprisingly, for doing so. President Gerald Ford did exactly that in 1974 with Proclamation 4311, pardoning then former President Richard Nixon before Nixon faced any formal charges.
Ford wrote in the proclamation that the controversial pardon was to prevent the loss of the “tranquility [of the] nation” should Nixon be brought to trial after a highly public inquiry. The pardon was in full and absolute for all offenses which Nixon “has committed or may have committed or taken part in.” Because Ford granted the pardon before any criminal prosecution of Nixon, it precluded the possibility of an indictment.
The substantive law as to the President’s power is clear. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution confers pardon authority on the President for violations of federal law (not state laws) stating that the President has the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the U.S., except in cases of impeachment.”
The Supreme Court already has clarified the scope of…