Poll: Americans say no to presidential self-pardons


Associated Press

NEW YORK

Even in an era of deep political division, Democrats and Republicans agree presidents should not pardon themselves. And if the nation’s chief executive ever does so, majorities of Americans in both parties believe Congress should impeach that president.

Those are the findings of a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which comes as federal authorities continue their months-long criminal investigation into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election and the actions of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Already, prosecutors have charged four Trump campaign associates – including the one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort – with felonies as part of the probe, and special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the Republican president directly.

Trump raised the possibility of a self-pardon on Twitter earlier this month, writing: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

By a wide margin, Americans believe Trump is wrong: 85 percent think it would be unacceptable for presidents to pardon themselves if charged with a crime, and 76 percent think Congress should take steps to remove a president from office if he or she did so.

The survey did not ask about Trump by name, but several poll respondents in follow-up interviews – including some strong Trump supporters – said their feelings would not change when applied to the current president.

“Pardon himself? You might as well cash in your chips and leave office,” said Bruce Novak, a retiree from Davie, Fla., who otherwise praised Trump’s job performance and vowed to vote for him again in 2020. “It’s not at all acceptable. I don’t care who you are.”

Recent AP-NORC surveys have found strong splits in opinion by party on issues related to Trump and his policies. While eight in 10 Republicans approve of the job he’s doing as president, for example, only one out of every 10 Democrats says the same.

But there’s little such disagreement on the question of pardons. Three-quarters of Republicans say a president should not self-pardon if charged with a crime, while 56 percent say Congress should impeach a president who did so. More than 9 in 10 Democrats agree.

Brynn Alexander, a 34-year-old registered Republican who lives in Fort Mitchell, Ala., railed against what she called bias among Mueller’s investigators. “They really hate this guy,” Alexander said, referring to Trump. But, she added, “I don’t think he should pardon himself. It looks bad.”

One of the most sweeping powers granted to a president, pardons are outlined in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which says the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Despite Trump’s declaration on social media that he could pardon himself, it’s not clear the Constitution grants him that authority and that question has never been tested in the courts. Trump’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has argued that a president “probably does” have the power to pardon himself – but he also insists Trump would never do so.

“Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment,” Giuliani told NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier this month.

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