As the House of Representatives considers whether to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his alleged role in last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol, a constitutional law expert says it’s unlikely Trump would be able to pardon himself – or for impeachment proceedings to ultimately convict him.
“Can Trump self-pardon? The bottom line is no,” said Morgan Marietta
, an authority on the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court. “A self-pardon violates common law principles that no one sits in judgment of himself and no one is above the law. Issuing himself a pardon would draw prosecutions, which would then be upheld, so his rational incentive is to not do it.”
Marietta also believes some lawmakers’ desire to impeach Trump for a second time may fall short. Although the House of Representatives is expected to vote on impeachment tomorrow, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled that chamber likely would not hear the case until after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office next week.
“Can the Senate hold a trial of a former president who was impeached by the House while in office? The answer is the same: No,” Marietta said. “The purpose of impeachment is removal from office, and our core principles do not allow for reprisals by political authority against former elected officials. When the Constitution is not fully detailed about every contingency, our leaders should follow its broad principles rather than partisan interest and not force the Supreme Court to contradict them.”
Marietta is an associate professor of political science at UMass Lowell and fellow in the university’s Center for Public Opinion. He is the co-author of the book “One Nation, Two Realities: Dueling Facts in American Democracy,” which examines the deep divides in U.S. politics. Marietta’s articles about the Supreme Court and constitutional issues are widely published.