That constitutional claim raises novel issues, according to legal experts. Under the Constitution, the president wields broad authority to control the actions of the executive branch. But the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can impose some restrictions on his exercise of that power, including by upholding statutes that limit his ability to fire certain officials. As a result, it is not clear whether statutes criminalizing obstruction of justice apply to the president and amount to another legal limit on how he may wield his powers. [New York Times]
IT IS instructive that Trump‘s attorneys ignored the arguments made by the Justice Department in the Nixon and Clinton administrations. Two presidents who were shamed in office, one of which resigned because of his actions, the other who was impeached.
There will be no associations with presidents whose so-called crimes and misdemeanors pale in comparison to Trump’s national security negligence, his flouting of executive privilege through brandishing pardons to send a message to his partners in potential crimes.
From Maggie Haberman, on the Trump letter to Mueller:
The letter does not address three of Mr. Mueller’s topics of discussion: the president’s reaction to the attorney general’s recusal and to Mr. Mueller’s appointment, as well as his discussions with Mr. Sessions about that appointment. The lawyers’ view, according to people close to the case: Those subjects are covered by executive privilege.
Times Reporter Charlie Savage found this line as chilling as I did: “he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired…” His comments
This is a striking line — and an ambiguous one. Mr. Trump’s lawyers may be suggesting that he had the lawful power to shut down the investigation into the national security adviser at the time, Michael T. Flynn, or even to pardon Mr. Flynn if he wanted — so that whatever he said to Mr. Comey about that case could not have amounted to obstruction. But the sentence may also leave open the possibility that he could order the obstruction investigation into himself shut down or even pardon himself. No president has ever purported to pardon himself, and it is unclear whether he could.
“…or even pardon himself.”
There it is. We have reached the final crescendo, the final act, the penultimate moment.
Trump asserts that no act, if committed by a president, can be illegal.
Our democracy hangs on Trump being wrong.
“He has no intention of pardoning himself,” said Giuliani, a former New York City mayor who is Trump’s lead attorney in negotiating an end to Mueller’s ongoing investigation. But it is a “really interesting constitutional argument: ‘Can the president pardon himself?'” Giuliani added, “I think the political ramifications of that would be tough. … [ABC News]
“Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” —Richard Nixon to David Frost, 1977 pic.twitter.com/DADT5ccKdW
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) June 3, 2018