Donald Trump’s personal lawyer has taken to the airwaves to defend the President’s claim that he has the power to pardon himself from a crime.
“Clearly the constitution does vest a plenary pardon power within the presidency,” attorney Jay Sekulow told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, adding that it was not something the White House is considering currently.
“Whether it applies to the president himself I think ultimately would be a matter for the court to decide, if it were ever to come into existence,” he continued. “But from a constitutional legal perspective you can’t dismiss it one way or the other.”
The president’s unilateral power to forgive criminals has long been acknowledged under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. The power of the president to pardon himself, however, has not been as extensively tested.
Mr Trump set off the debate over this possible power on Saturday with a controversial tweet.
“While all agree the US president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” Mr Trump wrote, in what many considered an indication that he may attempt to pardon himself or those close to him.
On Sunday Mr Sekulow denied that the White House had any interest in the subject, saying the president’s power to pardon himself is “not an issue we’re concerned with or dealing with”.
Incoming communications director Anthony Scaramucci, however, told CNN’s Jake Tapper he had discussed the issue with Mr Sekulow. In a subsequent appearance on Fox News Sunday, Mr Scaramucci said he had also discussed the matter with the President himself.
“I’m in the Oval Office with the President last week and we were talking about that,” Mr Scaramucci said. “He says he brought that up, but he doesn’t have to be pardoned, there’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned.”
Several members of Mr Trump’s inner circle have faced legal scrutiny in recent months over allegations of improper contact with Russian officials. His son Donald Trump Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his Vice President Mike Pence have all recently secured lawyers, though none have been formally charged with a crime.
Mr Trump himself has secured legal representation in the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. Along with Mr Sekulow, the President has brought on attorneys Ty Cobb and Marc Kasowitz to represent him in the Justice Department probe.
The Washington Post reports that this legal team is now looking into ways to undercut the Justice Department’s special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, in his investigation. Close advisers said the President and his team have discussed the extent of his power to pardon aides, family members, and even himself.
The legal team is also reportedly compiling a list of Mr Mueller’s alleged conflicts of interest, in an effort one Republican described as “laying the groundwork to fire” the prosecutor.
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