Anyone who paid attention in grade school can attest to being familiar with the separation of powers and check and balances that are the foundation of the United States federal government. The framers of the Constitution laid this groundwork in an effort to prevent one individual or government branch from gaining too much control, rendering any sort of dictatorship practically impossible. Nevertheless, U.S. presidents have found ways to ignore these checks and balances. Follow along to find out how President Trump may be avoiding them.
1. Trump claimed he could pardon himself at any time
Trump made waves in early June 2018 when he tweeted, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” This claim seems like a clear breach of the checks and balances of the American government, so is it true? Well, yes and no — it’s a bit ambiguous in the Constitution. Although the president could put his self-pardoning power into practice, this would not keep him safe from impeachment.
Next: His associates may also be in the clear.
2. He can also pardon any of his associates at any time
Although President Trump has not pardoned any of his associates yet, he certainly has that right. His recent pardon of conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza who violated financial campaign laws, however, looks promising for a handful of his associates currently under investigation. According to Jens David Ohlin, the vice dean of Cornell Law School suggests that his D’Souza pardon should be considered comforting for his associates.
Next: Can Trump really not obstruct justice?
3. No matter what he does, Trump’s lawyers claim he can’t obstruct justice
Trump’s lawyers’ claims that the president simply could not obstruct justice seem ludicrous. According to his team of legal professionals, his position as the authoritarian over every single federal investigation renders him incapable of obstructing justice while simultaneously implying that Trump is an exception to the law.
The president’s attorneys drafted a 20-page letter explaining the reasoning behind this no-obstruction claim, inevitably sidestepping questioning from Robert S. Mueller III regarding Trump’s potential involvement with the Russians during the 2016 election.
Next: It seems unreasonable that Trump could put the kibosh on standard law proceedings.
4. Trump has the power to terminate an inquiry at any point
The investigation into Trump’s potential collusion with the Russians brought cause for concern for potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, Trump’s Justice Department selected Mueller as the special counsel to lead the charge on the investigation. The kicker is, Mueller doesn’t have as much free reign to do his job as one may believe. At any point, Trump can terminate any inquiry from Mueller. For that matter, Congress and the Justice Department can also put the kibosh on any inquiries from Mueller.
Next: But what if Trump is subpoenaed?
5. Even if subpoenaed, Trump may not have to testify
Even though Mueller gets the thumbs-up from his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, to subpoena President Trump, the chances of an actual sit-down in the court of law are slim. A slew of legal hoops would likely ensue before Mueller got Rosenstein to sign off on the subpoena in the first place.
The most likely course of action would come in the form of Trump firing Rosenstein and hiring someone willing to protect the president. The new hire would inevitably refuse to sign off on Mueller’s subpoena, leaving the special counsel to grapple with a different way to expose the president.
Next: The truth behind Trump being indicted.
6. Trump can and cannot be indicted
There is a good reason for the confusion surrounding whether or not President Trump (or any president for that matter) can be indicted. While indicting Trump for crimes committed during his presidency would be quite difficult, any crimes committed prior to taking up residency at the White House can absolutely put him in the hot seat.
Next: Questionable pardons
7. Some of his pardons already appear to be skewed
Not all of Trump’s pardons have been questionable but one has. His decision to grant clemency to D’Souza, who was convicted of violating financial campaign laws, has piqued the interest of many Americans. Because D’Souza was pardoned on similar charges to what Trump and his administration are being investigated, the decision implies that Trump will pardon his associates, if convicted.