With his presidency coming to an end, Donald Trump has released his long-awaited final pardon list — this is why he kept his own name off it.
With his presidency coming to an end, Donald Trump has released his long-awaited final pardon list — this is why he kept his own name off it.

Why Trump didn’t pardon himself

With less than 12 hours left in the White House, Donald Trump has finally revealed exactly who he was pardoning.

The rumour mill was in overdrive Mr Trump would pre-emptively pardon himself and his children to protect them from any kind of legal action in the future.

However, the outgoing president did not take this unprecendeted and legally questionable step.

Mr Trump issued full pardons to 73 people and commuted the sentences of a further 70 individuals.

According to David Gray Adler, a US constitutional law scholar and president of the pro-democracy, non-profit organisation The Alturas Institute, Mr Trump effectively lost the ability to pardon himself when he was impeached for a second time earlier this month.

The Pardon Clause of the US Constitution, provides that the president may grant pardons for offences against the United States - "except in cases of impeachment".

The clause stops Mr Trump from pardoning anyone - including himself as president - who is the subject of impeachment.

Impeachment charges are unpardonable in the US and a presidential pardon also doesn't extend to potential state charges.

"Such a self-pardon will have limited utility given the sorts of legal challenges that Trump may be forced to confront," Mr Adler wrote, in a piece for CNN.

"A presidential pardon does not extend to state offences, which means he could still face charges arising from state and city investigations currently being conducted in New York."

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Even if Mr Trump wanted to pardon himself, the case would likely go to the Supreme Court, a court that heavily leans on historical arguments and evidence.

Given there is no evidence in the Constitution or in any American legal history that supports "the existence of such a staggering power, or any assertion to that effect by just one delegate to the convention, Trump's premise of a self-pardon should be as risible to strict and loose constructionists on any court as his assertion that the president is endowed with 'absolute' power," Mr Adler argues.

The US Capitol riot on January 6 was one example of Mr Trump attempting to assert his "absolute power" on Washington DC, according to Mr Adler.

It was however, an attempt that backfired in Mr Trump becoming the first president in US history to be impeached twice.



Mr Adler described the second impeachment charges as a "slam-dunk in a court of law".

Five people died in the US Capitol riots, that saw thousands of Mr Trump's supporters storm and trash the government building.

White House sources earlier said Mr Trump has privately debated with advisers whether to take the extraordinary step of issuing a pardon for himself.

The source, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said so far Mr Trump does not plan to pardon himself and also does not plan to issue pre-emptive pardons for members of his family, another subject he has discussed privately with advisers.


Some administration officials cautioned Mr Trump against a self-pardon because it would make him look guilty.

Many scholars have said a self-pardon would be unconstitutional because it violates the basic principle that nobody should be the judge in his or her own case.

Others have argued that a self-pardon is constitutional because the pardon power is very broadly worded in the Constitution.

Historical texts made clear that the nation's 18th century founders discussed self-pardons, but opted not to include an explicit limitation on that power.

Mr Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives last week on charges of inciting the storming of the US Capitol.

His case is to face a Senate trial and if convicted, he could be disqualified from seeking another run for the presidency in 2024.

- With Wires


Originally published as Why Trump didn't pardon himself