Trump asserts ‘absolute right’ to pardon himself

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump aggressively hardened his defence against the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Monday...

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump aggressively hardened his defence against the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Monday, branding the probe “unconstitutional” and declaring that he has an “absolute right” to pardon himself of any crime.

While both claims lack strong legal foundation, according to most experts, they signalled that the president is doubling down against Mueller’s probe into campaign collusion with Russia and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice.

“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” he said on Twitter.

“The appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Despite that, we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!” he added in a second tweet.

It was the first time Trump asserted the power to pardon himself, an issue never before tested in courts.

It comes as the White House and Mueller’s team were girding for a possible high-stakes legal showdown over whether Trump will agree to or be forced to be interviewed by investigators, as well as a possible impeachment push that could result from the probe.

While Mueller has indicted 19 people and three companies in his year-old investigation, including several former top campaign aides to Trump, the investigation has so far made no allegations against the president himself.

But questions they have submitted to the White House indicate Mueller is examining Trump’s actions, including his firing of former FBI director James Comey, for possible obstruction of justice.

Trump’s lawyers don’t want him to be interviewed by Mueller, accusing the independent prosecutor, himself a former FBI chief, of trying to “trap” the president in a lie.

A 20-page January letter from Trump’s lawyers to Mueller that leaked to the media over the weekend argued that the White House has answered all of Mueller’s questions and requests, and so he cannot legally force the president to answer questions.

Legal experts said Trump’s broad claims of presidential privilege would not likely hold up in courts.

“Trump is making some incredibly expansive claims of executive power, as though there are no separation of powers limits on his authority. It is hard to imagine judicial backing of these views,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and author of a book on presidential powers.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2018



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