Trump lawyer says he believes president has power to pardon himself

AFP , Sunday 3 Jun 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

A lawyer for Donald Trump said Sunday that the president "probably" had the power to pardon himself from any charges stemming from the probe into Russian meddling, while adding that the chances were dimming of the president agreeing to an interview with the special counsel leading the inquiry.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a recent addition to the Trump legal team, told ABC's "This Week" that a president "probably does" have the power to pardon himself, even while he insisted that Trump had no intention of doing so.

"I think the political ramifications of that would be tough," Giuliani added. "Pardoning other people is one thing. Pardoning yourself is another."

But the very notion sparked sharp dissent, including from a fellow Republican and sometime Trump adviser, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

"Listen, there's no way that'll happen," Christie told ABC.

"The reason it won't is because then it becomes a political problem ... If the president were to pardon himself, he'll get impeached."

House Republican Majority leader Kevin McCarthy also told CNN that no president should pardon himself.

And Preet Bharara, who like Giuliani is a former New York prosecutor, agreed.

Bharara, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama, told CNN that for a president to pardon himself would be "outrageous."

It would amount, he added, to "almost self-executing impeachment."

The talk of self-pardoning has raised eyebrows amid the roiling debate over the Russia meddling inquiry and the president's cooperation -- or lack of it. Trump has issued a series of ever-sharper tweets attacking the Mueller probe as politically motivated and insisting there was "no collusion" between his campaign team and Russia.

The debate over a self-pardon has been further fueled as Trump has issued -- or hinted at -- a series of pardons to political allies, and done so in a way Democrats say is meant to signal his present and former aides that they need not fear resisting the Mueller probe.

Meantime, Giuliani has said before that the president's lawyers oppose Trump sitting down for an interview with Mueller. The president's lawyers fear an interview could lead to Trump inadvertently, and they say innocently, committing perjury.

While saying on Sunday that Trump wanted to sit down with Mueller, Giuliani added, "It's beginning to get resolved in favor of not doing it."

His comment suggested that Trump's lawyers were beginning to persuade the president of the dangers involved.

Asked about a January memo from Trump's legal team to Mueller -- which conceded, after multiple White House denials, that the president himself had dictated a misleading letter last July about a meeting involving his son Donald and a Russian lawyer -- Giuliani said, "That is why you don't let the president testify. Our recollection keeps changing" and sometimes needs to be corrected.

That memo, first reported by the New York Times, also asserted that a president has full power over Justice Department investigations and therefore cannot be charged with obstruction of justice.

Giuliani was asked on ABC whether a president accused of a crime as serious as murder or bribery could terminate the investigation.

"I would not go that far," he said.

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