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Angus King Says He Doesn't Think Donald Trump Can Pardon Himself

J. Scott Applewhite
Associated Press
Angus King at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

President Donald Trump has tweeted that he believes he could pardon himself under the broad Constitutional powers granted to presidents. Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine disagrees.

Trump has asserted that he has the right to pardon himself, but won’t use his power to do so since he has done nothing wrong. But King says the implication that a president can never be held accountable for his or her actions is inconsistent with other powers of the Constitution.

“I think it is troubling because the implication is that a president can never be held to account, and I don’t think that is how our system works,” he says.

King says what Trump is asserting is like the sovereign immunity concept, where the king or queen can do no wrong, and the founding fathers rejected that principle.

“The idea that you can pardon yourself and therefore can never be held to account strikes me as inconsistent with the fundamentals of the constitution,” he says.

No president has ever taken such action. In 1974, on the eve of Richard Nixon’s resignation, legal counsel for the Justice Department wrote a memo saying no one, including the president, “may be a judge in his own case.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, has also weighed in on Trump’s assertion. She said Trump should never have tweeted about it in the first place and warned his use of the pardon power for himself could trigger a backlash.

“There certainly would be a firestorm and I think there might be action taken against the president,” she said. “It’s hard to speculate what would happen, but it certainly would be an unwise move and a horrendous abuse of power.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders has since clarified the president’s tweet, saying Trump does not believe he is above the law.