Donald Trump and Russia Investigation: Can the President Pardon Himself? (Newsweek link): President Donald Trump’s lawyers are examining his powers to pardon himself, his aides, and family members, prompting questions over the ability of a president to invoke such a power.
On Thursday the Washington Post reported that a source close to Trump said the president asked his aides about the extent of his powers to forgive legal offenses. Another source said his legal team was on it. The report follows damaging revelations last week that Trump’s son agreed to meet with Russians after being told they were part of a Kremlin plot to help his father win the presidency.
While the president does hold powers to pardon aides, legally, he cannot pardon himself according to legal experts and memos written by President Richard Nixon’s Office of Legal Counsel days before Nixon resigned in the Watergate scandal in 1974.
The memos stated that “under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself.”
Trump does have a potential out that would involve Vice President Mike Pence stepping in as acting president. Even if Trump did use that, any aides he pardons can still be legally compelled to testify against him without the protection of the Fifth Amendment, experts say.
News of White House efforts to legally insulate itself followed reports that special counsel Robert Mueller and FBI investigators are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings and examining the Trump family finances. Trump warned Mueller against expanding his investigation in this direction during an interview with The New York Times Wednesday.
These probes are part of the Russia investigation looking at Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and tilt it toward Trump. Investigators are also examining whether the Trump campaign and the president’s associates colluded with Russia in this.
While the president has the power to grant pardons, it is “important to remember that the pardon power is legally—but not politically—absolute,” wrote Steve Vladeck, a national security law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, on Twitter Thursday.
The real question, Vladeck said, “is how congressional Republicans respond” and whether they continue to back the president. Republicans control both the House and Senate, giving them the power to impeach the president—a legal process that could remove Trump from office.
The president’s pardoning power only extends to federal offenses. If Trump pardoned his aides and family members, they could be called to testify without the protection of the Fifth Amendment—this amendment means defendants can avoid giving testimony that incriminates themselves.
In a message to Trump on Twitter posted Friday, Harvard Law School constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe warned the president that “anyone you pardon can be compelled to testify without any grant of immunity, and that testimony could undo you.” This testimony could be used to back up an impeachment case against Trump.
One option remains according to the memo drawn up by Nixon’s legal counsel. Under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, the President could declare “that he was temporarily unable to perform the duties of the office.”
Vice President Mike Pence would then become Acting President “and as such could pardon the President,” the memo reads. “Thereafter the President could either resign or resume the duties of his office.”
It remains an open question whether a Republican-controlled Congress would bring any articles of impeachment against Trump.
Mod: In addition to enlisting murderous foreign dictators in their cause, the American Alt-Right is now celebrating what they see as the positive effects of deadly diseases.
John McCain Cancer Is ‘Godly Justice’ for Challenging Trump, Alt-Right Claims (Newsweek link): Most Americans met Wednesday night’s news that Arizona Senator John McCain was facing a dire diagnosis of brain cancer with shows of respect for the elder statesman and former prisoner of war. But to some on the extreme right, the longtime Republican is a traitor worthy of scorn, presumably because of his willingness to work with Democrats, as well as his criticism of President Donald Trump.
The attack on McCain--a war hero who spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese prison—is faintly reminiscent of the early days of Trump’s presidential campaign. During a family values summit in Iowa in the summer of 2015, just a month after he’d announced his seemingly quixotic bid for the White House, Trump lashed out at McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
At the time, Trump was angry because McCain had complained that Trump "fired up the crazies" during an anti-immigration rally in Phoenix.
Trump has in no way endorsed or encouraged the alt-right’s attacks on McCain, which have thus far been limited to the fringes of digital discourse. Trump sent a statement of support for McCain on Wednesday. "Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon," that statement said.
“The last president for McCain will be Trump. There’s some godly justice right there,” wrote one user on the “Politically Incorrect” message board of social media network 4chan, a hothouse of right-wing memes.
“I’m pretty sure that God is punishing him,” wrote another 4chan user. “God made it pretty clear that he supports New Right now.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) given explicit instructions by the Kremlin for how to attack sanctions (Raw Story link): A bombshell report claims that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has long been described as “Putin’s favorite congressman,” was given explicit instructions by the Kremlin for how to attack sanctions against Russia last year.
The Daily Beast reports that “after being given a secret document by officials in Moscow, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher sought to alter sanctions legislation and tried to set up a virtual show trial on Capitol Hill” last June, right at around the time that Donald Trump Jr. and key members of the Trump campaign met with Russian nationals who claimed to be representatives of the Russian government’s efforts to undermine the candidacy of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Rohrabacher’s original plan was to have a show trial in Congress of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder in which he would “confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him—as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.”
The purpose of this “show trial,” according to an email reviewed by the Daily Beast, was to undermine a set of sanctions placed on Russia that were named after Sergei Magnitsky, who served as Browder’s tax attorney before being imprisoned after exposing a Russian corruption scandal.