Q: Presidential pardons aren’t that uncommon, but what does that really mean? You are innocent, charges are dropped?
-BW, Woodland Hills
A: In 1915, in the US v Burdick case, the United States Supreme Court found that a pardon entailed imputation and acceptance of pardon entailed confession. It would therefore not be correct to describe a pardon as complete discharge or a declaration of innocence. A pardon is simply the act of the President of the United States that removes punishment for a federal crime. Their authority is found in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution.
Q: Can Trump Forgive His Family? Can he forgive himself too?
A: The Constitution does not preclude pardons that may look bad (in other words, the appearance of self-interest or even a conflict of interest). In 1993, then-President George HW Bush apologized to a number of officials in President Ronald Reagan’s administration for their behavior in connection with the Iran-Contra affair. Some thought that HW himself had a self-interest in issuing these pardons. As for a president who pardons himself, there is no case. Some say that the language of pardon is fairly broad, that there is no explicit exception to “self-forgiveness.” Others say that the word “to grant” in relation to a pardon means to grant something to someone else, not to yourself. In 1974, days before President Richard Nixon’s resignation, then acting director of the Justice Department’s Office, Mary C Lawton, a succinct legal view that “it appears” that Nixon has been since, “No, you can be a judge in your case. “To answer your questions, Trump could forgive his family, but it is unclear whether it would be valid and upheld if he pardoned himself.
Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with over 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, summarizes the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email questions and comments to [email protected]
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