"If the President decided he was going to pardon himself, that's almost self-executing impeachment." —Preet Bhahara, former federal prosecutor"He has no intention of pardoning himself, but that doesn't say he can't."
That's what President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed Sunday morning on ABC's "This Week" after he was asked directly by host George Stephanopoulos if the president's current legal team believes the president has the power to pardon himself.
JUST IN: Does Pres. Trump have the power to pardon himself?
"He's not, but he probably does," Rudy Giuliani tells @GStephanopoulos. "He has no intention of pardoning himself, but that doesn't say he can't." https://t.co/IEUEWnjQqe #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/IE1AocigYl
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 3, 2018
The question came in the wake of a leaked legal memo Trump's lawyers sent to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller earlier this year—obtained by the New York Times and published on Saturday—which stated their belief that Trump cannot be charged with obstruction of justice and retains sweeping pardon powers when it comes to all federal prosecutions, including ones for which even the president himself might be a subject.
Responding to Giuliani's comments, former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara told CNN's Dana Bash that "If the President decided he was going to pardon himself, that's almost self-executing impeachment."
And Renato Mariotti, another former federal prosecutor, retorted, "If this sounds like tyranny to you, that's because it is."
Trump’s team not only argues that he can pardon himself but also argues that he has unlimited power to investigate his enemies and end investigations into his friends. If this sounds like tyranny to you, that’s because it is. https://t.co/1dWv8OG04X
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) June 3, 2018
In a column on Sunday morning, Vox's Matthew Yglesias characterized the memo from Trump's legal team as "a recipe for tyranny" and a "clear and present danger to the rule of law."
Though it's clear this claim of far-reaching presidential authority has specific implications for the ongoing Mueller probe, Yglesias says the implications go much further than that:
One of the main purposes of the government is to protect the weak from exploitation at the hands of the strong by making certain forms of misconduct illegal. Trump's assertion that he can simply waive-away investigations into misconduct because he is worried that the investigation might end badly for his friends or family members is toxic to that entire scheme. Trump, like most presidents, has plenty of rich and powerful friends and a much longer list of rich and powerful people who would like to be his friends.
And if Trump, he concludes, "really does have the power to just make anyone's legal trouble go away because he happens to feel like it, then we're all in a world of trouble."