TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — President Trump has reportedly floated the idea of pardoning himself and members of his inner circle. Pardons are not new to American history, but experts say after the riot at the capitol any pardons from the outgoing president would put us even further into uncharted territory.
Presidential pardons have been a tense subject for a long time.
“Andrew Johnson used pardon power extensively in the wake of the civil war and that was controversial,” said Arizona State University Professor of History Brooks D. Simpson.
Simpson says any pardons in our history from George Washington to Watergate would in many ways pale in comparison to a pardon after the riot at the capitol on Wednesday.
“There is a lot of ground here that is yet to be understood because we have never been here before.”
President Trump has reportedly considered pardoning himself. That would truly be historic, but Simpson says it would also be an admission of guilt.
“It would probably condemn Trump forever to do that, because a pardon is a recognition someone is in trouble otherwise you wouldn’t need to pardon them.”
Simpson says a preemptive pardon would not be an unprecedented move.
“Preemptive pardons have been given in various situations; usually they haven’t been tested. Gerald Ford, for example, offered and granted a pardon to Richard Nixon.”
While Simpson says pardons can be interpreted very broadly, they do have some limits. They can only be applied to federal crimes and President Trump could face challenges like the 25th Amendment and impeachment if he chooses to use them now.
“If the president were to act in this way, I think there would be a reconsideration of the power. Because many would see it as an abuse of that power.”