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Trump Pardoning Himself Would be 'Almost Self-Executing Impeachment': Preet Bharara

In the letter, they say the president has absolute power as US legal chief to end investigations, or "even exercise his power to pardon".

PTI

Updated:June 4, 2018, 4:07 PM IST
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Trump Pardoning Himself Would be 'Almost Self-Executing Impeachment': Preet Bharara
US President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, on January 11, 2017. (Image: Reuters)
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Washington: It "would be outrageous" for a sitting US president to pardon himself, former attorney Preet Bharara has asserted after Donald Trump's lawyer said probably the President has the power to pardon himself in the Russia collusion affair.

The question of self-pardon arose after the New York Times published a 20-page letter to the special counsel Robert Mueller from Trump's lawyers.

In the letter, they say the president has absolute power as US legal chief to end investigations, or "even exercise his power to pardon".

Asked about the letter of Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow and then-Trump lawyer John Dowd, Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani said yesterday that the President is not going to pardon himself but "probably does" have the power to do it.

"He has no intention of pardoning himself," Giuliani told ABC's "This Week." He added, "It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by gosh, that's what the Constitution says, and if you want to change it, change it. But yes."

Reacting to the letter as well as Giuliani's explanation, Bharara, the Indian-origin attorney, who was fired by President Trump last year, said that it "would be outrageous" for a sitting president to pardon himself.

"I think (if) the President decided he was going to pardon himself, I think that's almost self-executing impeachment," Bharara, a CNN legal analyst, said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"Whether or not there is a minor legal argument that some law professor somewhere in a legal journal can make that the President can pardon, that's not what the framers could have intended. That's not what the American people, I think, would be able to stand for," he said.

Bharara, who served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2017, said that he doesn't believe Giuliani's assertion that the President is not considering granting himself a pardon.

"Rudy, just like Jay Sekulow, keeps coming up with things that end up being false. When he says the President is not contemplating something, I have no faith in that whatsoever," he said.

The case stems from the investigation by special counsel Mueller into alleged collusion between the Trump team and Russian officials in the 2016 election campaign that brought the Republican billionaire to power.

Trump has always maintained there was no collusion and that the investigation is a "witch hunt".

Part of Mueller's investigation is looking at whether Trump sought to criminally obstruct it, especially with the sacking of ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI director James Comey, and with his reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal from the investigation.

In the letter to Mueller, which was sent in January, Sekulow and Dowd has acknowledged for the first time that Trump "dictated" a statement put out about his son's controversial 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower, CNN reported.

It also says that the letter contradicts several public statements by Sekulow and also by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who said Trump "certainly didn't dictate," but rather "weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he does not think a president should pardon himself or herself.

"I don't believe that would be a legal question," McCarthy, a Republican lawmaker from California, said.

"The President is not saying he is going to pardon himself. I don't know why we're walking through hypotheticals here in this process. The President has never said he pardoned himself. I don't know where the President would go forward pardoning himself. But I don't think a president should pardon themselves," McCarthy added.

Mueller has so far indicted 19 people as part of his probe, including four members of the Trump campaign team or administration.

A total of 13 Russians have also been charged over their links to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll factory" accused of spreading fake news stories through US social media.

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