President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani publicly pressed Trump’s expansive view of executive power this weekend, arguing on two Sunday TV shows that the president probably has the sweeping constitutional authority to pardon even himself.
“He probably does,” Giuliani said, when asked on ABC’s “This Week” if Trump has the ability to pardon himself. “He has no intention of pardoning himself, but he probably – not to say he can’t.”
Giuliani’s comments came less than 24 hours after the revelation Saturday that the president’s legal team argued in a secret January memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Trump could not have obstructed an FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election because, as president, he has total control over all federal investigations.
The 20-page letter, written before Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team by two of the president’s lawyers at the time and first reported by the New York Times, was hand delivered to Mueller’s office, and also argues that the president cannot be compelled to testify.
But while arguing that the president has the theoretical ability to pardon himself, Giuliani and other Trump allies on Sunday nonetheless rejected the reality of such a brash move – in part because of the political backlash they said could lead to Trump’s impeachment.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” for instance, Giuliani framed the pardon question as purely hypothetical and politically implausible. “It’s not going to happen. It’s a hypothetical point,” he told host Chuck Todd.
He went on to describe such a move as “unthinkable,” and said it would probably lead immediately to impeachment.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is in regular touch with the president, was even more blunt than Giuliani, appearing on the ABC news program shortly after Trump’s attorney.
“Listen, there’s no way that’ll happen, and the reason it won’t is because then it becomes a political problem,” Christie said when asked about the notion that Trump might pardon himself. “If the president were to pardon himself, he’ll get impeached.”
The reality, however, is more nebulous. The Republican Party, which currently controls Congress, has so far failed to assert any clear red line over which Trump could walk that would prompt them to take action against their party’s leader. And Republican lawmakers have remained largely silent as Trump has repeatedly gone to war with his Justice Department and the FBI, intentionally and routinely degrading public trust in the institutions tasked with holding him accountable for misbehavior.
On Sunday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is considered the front-runner to become the next House speaker, seemed to argue the opposite of Giuliani and Christie, saying the key focus of Mueller’s probe is, simply, whether the Trump campaign and Russia had colluded during the 2016 election.“What I was concerned most about, like most Americans, was there any collusion?” McCarthy said.