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Why Clinton Could Pardon Himself

Dateline: 04/12/00

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Independent Counsel Robert Ray is considering asking for a criminal indictment next January against President Clinton on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements, and conspiracy related to the President's testimony related to his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. (Washington Post story of 4/11/00)

According to the Post report, Ray does not plan to go forward with the indictments until after the President leaves office in January because of potential "constitutional challenges."

The "constitutional challenges" would come primarily from the power of U.S. presidents to grant pardons under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states in part, "and he [the president] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

In other words, under this Article, a sitting president can grant him or herself a pardon. The Founding Fathers intended this in order to prevent the Executive Branch (the president) from coming under the direct control and influence of the Judiciary Branch (the courts).

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall once summed up the wisdom of the constitutional provision as follows: "An attempt on the part of the judicial department of the government to enforce the performance of such duties by the President might be justly characterized, as an absurd and excessive extravagance."

Richard Nixon was the only president ever pardoned. President Gerald R. Ford, Nixon's successor in office, pardoned him from prosecution for alleged crimes stemming from the Watergate scandal.

In a later Washington Post story, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart has stated that President Clinton has no intention of granting himself a pardon before leaving office next January 20th. (Washington Post story of 4/12/00)

Lockhart also told the Post he knows of no discussions between the President and Vice President Gore concerning a pardon should Gore be elected president in November.

Reference Links

Independent Counsel Targets Clinton
Independent Counsel Robert Ray is considering indicting President Clinton after the election. He says the Clinton probe is an "open matter," and revealed he's hired more staff, and will increase spending on the investigation. From U.S. Politics Guide John Aravosis.

Clinton Won't Pardon Himself In Counsel Probe
The Washington Post - April 12, 2000

$52 Million Starr Probe Costliest Ever
The Washington Post - April 1, 2000

Heeding the ghosts of scandals past
Will the murky past of White House scandals affect the elections? From U.S. News Online - March 27, 2000

Impeachment's little elves
"How a pack of conservative lawyers used Matt Drudge and Clinton-accuser Kathleen Willey to scuttle a deal in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case." From Salon.com News - April 4, 2000.

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