HOUSTON - One Houston Congressman is trying to stop the President of the United States, currently or in the future, from issuing a self-pardon.
Democrat Al Green, who’s recently called for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, says the bill he’s planning to file isn’t about President Trump specifically. Instead, he says he wants to make sure anyone holding America’s highest office isn’t above the law.
Some academics have been debating whether a U.S. President can pardon themselves for years because no president has ever tried it. Some argue it's possible because the Constitution doesn't spell out who may or may not receive that pardon, while others argue the document does not let the president use pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal, and it allows for criminal prosecution even after removal.
"This is not about the president in office,” said Rep. Al Green (D-Houston), during his press conference Monday. “This is about all presidents."
However, Congressman Green said he felt compelled to introduce the bill after hearing the growing debate over presidential self-pardons.
"We don't want any president to think that he can pardon himself,” Rep. Green said. “I think that today we're sending a message to our president: you should not pursue pardoning yourself. If you're thinking about it, don't think about it."
Some news outlets report the president asked his advisors about the power to pardon himself and his staffers. President Donald Trump tweeted over the weekend that "all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon.”
While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
However, both President Trump and the White House Communications Director said over the weekend they had no need to use the power to pardon but did seem to leave the option open.
"He can pardon pretty much anyone in the world except for himself,” said Mark Jones, a fellow of political science at Rice University’s Baker Institute.
Jones has extensively studied presidential democracies in both the United States and Latin America.
"In that case (of issuing a self-pardon), the president would be effectively judge and jury,” Jones said. “He would be judging himself, and he would be acquitting himself. You can't really do that."
Jones says the issue last came up in the 1970s with then-President Richard Nixon, who asked his Department of Justice and Attorney General whether he could pardon himself over the Watergate scandal.
"The answer was a rotund, 'No, you can't Mr. President,'" Jones said.
But because there's no legal precedent, Jones agrees with President Trump's lawyer that if a President were to try to pardon himself or herself, legal challenges would put the final decision out of the hands of the commander-in-chief.
"I think it's a question that, ultimately, if put in place, would ultimately have to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court to determine constitutionality,” said Jay Sekulow, President Trump’s personal attorney, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.
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