Ross: Could Trump pardon himself from prison if reelected?

Apr 6, 2023, 9:21 AM | Updated: 10:07 am


New York, NY USA - APRIL 4: Artist Tony Villar, of Flanders, NY, shows off his art work while across the courthouse. He made the work because he wanted to show how Trump is dangerous to democracy. Tuesday, April 4, 2023 New York, NY. Former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court. (Photo by Aristide Economopoulos for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

(Photo by Aristide Economopoulos for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The debate over the Trump case in New York is all about whether the district attorney went too far and is trying to stretch the law like a rubber band around loosely related facts.

So I brought it up in my weekly discussion with Rob McKenna, who, as a former state attorney general, knows something about prosecutorial discretion and who, as a Republican, takes a more conservative approach than I usually do.

More from Dave Ross: My best attempt to explain why Trump now faces 34 felonies

“You know, we’ve talked about this before, Dave. I think that the provisions of the Constitution providing for the impeachment of the president or any federal officer, I think those provisions were intended to be reserved for the most severe cases,” McKenna said.

“So I think that the second impeachment of Trump was justified because of his incredibly reckless actions leading up to January 6, but I never thought that the phone call they had with President Zelensky was worthy of impeachment. I didn’t think that Bill Clinton lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky justified impeachment either,” McKenna continued.

“But, when you start to weaponize the judicial process, when you start to look at the person and ask yourself, ‘What crimes can we think of that this person might have committed?’ instead of discovering a crime and saying, ‘Oh, is this person responsible for it?'” McKenna said. “When you go down that path, as Republicans and Democrats have done for the last couple of decades, it can lead to all kinds of unfortunate consequences.”

By the way, here’s something that came up in a discussion I was having with some friends. Under the Constitution, even if Trump is convicted and goes to prison, he could still conceivably run for president.

If that were to happen, and he runs for president from prison, once he wins, could he pardon himself and order himself released?

“Yeah, that’s not clear, actually. It isn’t clear that a president can pardon himself,” McKenna responded. “So that would be untested. That would obviously have to be decided by the Supreme Court.”

So he’s skeptical, but I would say if it’s up to the current Supreme Court, who knows?

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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