- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2018

President Trump said Monday he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself and called the appointment of a special counsel “unconstitutional.”

The president’s comment comes after his attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, saying Mr. Trump may have the power to pardon himself as president, but he would not.

“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!” Mr. Trump tweeted on Monday.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, defended Mr. Trump’s tweet on Fox News, saying he has been “very cooperative” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russia collusion.

“He tells America instantly … how he feels about this investigation. Remember, we were promised Russia collusion,” she said. “We have respected the process tremendously. This White House could not have been more cooperative.”

In a subsequent tweet, the president attacked the legality of a special counsel all together.

“The appointment of the Special Councel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Despite that, we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said the president is wrong about the ability to pardon himself and about the illegality of the special counsel probe.

“No president is above the law,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement. “He thinks that, because he is the president, his actions cannot be an obstruction of justice. His lawyers think that he can ignore a subpoena from a federal grand jury, and threaten the special counsel accordingly. But President Trump is wrong.

“The president is no different from other public officials who are regularly prosecuted for taking bribes in exchange for official acts or using their office to interfere with criminal investigations,” Mr. Nadler said. “President Trump may pressure the director of the FBI [James Comey] to drop an investigation into his national security adviser [Michael Flynn], he may later fire that FBI director, and he may engage in a monthslong campaign to portray his own Department of Justice as corrupt — but if he does so with the specific intent to obstruct the work of the special counsel, then he may have committed a crime.”

Mr. Nadler said the special counsel’s investigation is “clearly constitutional,” and that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort failed with the same “desperate” legal argument in his court case last month. He also said Mr. Trump must comply with a subpoena from the special counsel if it comes.

“Special Counsel Mueller can almost certainly compel the president’s testimony if he requires it,” the lawmaker said.

Ms. Conway chided reporters for covering the pardon story, calling it a simplistic distraction from more important issues.

“He tweeted about it because you’re all covering something that’s a hypothetical exercise,” Mrs. Conway said. “That’s what you do. I wouldn’t say you do it well, but you do it often. I presume it’s easier than understanding the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of North Korea and trade policy.”

Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, said Mr. Trump’s tweet is an attempt to undermine the special counsel’s investigation, and Republicans must work with Democrats to make sure the probe is uninterrupted.

“This is a president, who if he had nothing to hide and did nothing wrong, [should] let the investigation be completed,” Mr. Cicilline said on CNN. “What is the president so afraid of?”

Brian Kalt, a Michigan State University law school professor who specializes in the presidency, said the act of a president pardoning himself might itself be a crime.

Writing in Foreign Policy magazine last year, Mr. Kalt compared a self-pardon to vetoing legislation in return for taking a bribe.

“The veto would be valid, but the bribe would be a felony,” Mr. Kalt wrote. “Depending on the circumstances, a self-pardon might similarly be valid in its function as a pardon but felonious as an obstruction of justice.”

He said there are obvious political reasons for a president to avoid a self-pardon.

“It would look so craven and corrupt that it would greatly weaken the president’s political position with all but his most die-hard supporters,” Mr. Kalt wrote. “If he were facing impeachment, it would increase his chances of being removed from office. If there were an election anytime soon, he and his party could pay a tremendous price.”

Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

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