It emerged late last week that President Trump has reportedly queried his lawyers regarding the nature and scope of his authority to pardon individuals including himself. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted a “nothing to see here” message while asserting his pardon power was “complete,” presumably meaning absolute.
While not limitless, the authority of the President to pardon is undeniably substantial. The President cannot pardon for prospective crimes or violations of state criminal law. There is a strong argument that he cannot pardon himself and certainly cannot insulate himself or others from the conviction of impeachment, as expressly stated in the Constitution. But other than these and perhaps other narrow limitations, a President’s pardon powers is vast. Indeed, the President’s power to pardon others including his family members for past federal crimes, even without evidence of specific criminal investigation or prosecution, is arguably plenary in nature.