The Atlantic

The One Word That Bars Trump From Pardoning Himself

The question shouldn’t be whether the president can pardon himself but whether he can grant himself a pardon—and those are not the same thing.
Source: Hulton Archive / Getty / The Atlantic

As Donald Trump’s tenure in office comes in for its landing, a major question is whether the president—facing questions about liability for offenses including bank and tax fraud—can pardon himself.

This might seem like the right operational question, but it is imprecise as a constitutional one. Article II of the Constitution says that the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” Did you catch that? The president has the power not to pardon people, but “to grant … Pardons” (emphasis added). So the question is not whether Trump can pardon himself. It’s whether he can grant himself a pardon.

[Garrett Epps: Can Trump pardon himself?]

That might seem like an odd way of, , or something. These verbs entail a transfer to someone else; the actor can’t also be the recipient.

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