On his way out: Is Donald Trump allowed pardon himself and how would it work?
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On his way out: Is Donald Trump allowed pardon himself and how would it work?

DONALD TRUMP has previously said that he has the "absolute right" to pardon himself - experts, on the other hand, are divided over whether this is possible.

Michael Gerhardt, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina, has weighed into the controversy and offered his expert opinion on what's likely to happen:

How do presidential pardons work?

The president can pardon anyone convicted of a federal crime, even before they've been charged, giving them immunity from criminal liability and future prosecution.

It's up to a court to decide if the pardon is legitimate.

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For those already convicted of a crime, a pardon means that their punishment is rescinded, and their record gets expunged.

Though, this does not shield them from prosecution in any of America's 50 state jurisdictions.

Can a president pardon himself?

This is where it gets tricky.

The constitution doesn't specifically say he can or he can't, and is therefore open to interpretation. No president has attempted it before, meaning no historical or legal precedent has yet been established.

Professor Gerhardt said: "There is a division of opinion on whether a president can pardon himself, but slightly more think he cannot.

"I do not think the president does have the power to pardon himself.

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"First, if you look at the constitutional language, the president isn't given the power to pardon, he's given the power to grant a pardon.

"To grant, when the constitution was written, and now, means to give someone else the power to be pardoned - that doesn't mean to grant himself something.

"I take that as the president can't grant himself anything.

"Secondly, if we just look at the overall purpose of the constitution and its structure, the framers rebelled against a king and it makes no sense whatsoever to look at it and say they would want that, there's no indication that they intended to create a king or give the president the power to raise himself above the law.

"The people placed him in power, there are mechanisms in the constitution to address his behaviour in office.

"But, there's nothing that suggests he's the one person in the States that can raise himself above the people."

Will Trump attempt to pardon himself?

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"I'm sure he will try and he may well do it," said Prof Gerhardt.

"I've heard that people in the White House are urging him to not do it, but he likes to do things people tell him not to."

Would that be an admission of guilt?

"Yes, I think so," Prof Gerhardt said.

"If someone is given a pardon, in accepting that pardon the person implicitly acknowledges their guilt.

"If he proceeds to pardon his family, they're acknowledging their guilt."

Can Mr Trump pardon his family?

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Yes. Trump can pardon his family in the same way he has pardoned close associates, such as campaign figures George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort.

Members of Trump's family have been closely associated with his administration, including his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who were both given security clearances at the start of his tenure.

Trump will "say that it is to protect them from Biden and the Democrats", Prof Gerhart speculates, but "in fact, it is because they have been self-dealing and breaking laws left and right, which he does not want them to be held accountable for."

What happens if Trump pardons himself?

"If the president does pardon himself then that may end up before the Supreme Court as it's likely that a federal prosecutor will go after Trump for some illegality during his time in office," Prof Gerhardt said.

Would pardoning himself mean that Trump won't be impeached?

No. The constitution is unambiguous on this point: "He [the president] shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment."

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The outgoing president has so far used his power to pardon, commute, or rescind the convictions of 94 people. This figure is surprisingly low when compared to previous presidents, such as Barack Obama, who granted clemency to 1,927 people - many with drug related convictions - during his 8-year term in office.

One notable difference between Trump and previous presidents is that "Almost all of the beneficiaries of Trump’s pardons and commutations have had a personal or political connection to the president”, according to an analysis conduced by the Lawfare blog.