Here's the wildest prediction you'll hear about how Donald Trump gets a pardon

The dominant question of President Donald Trump’s final six weeks in office is who he will pardon — and, specifically, whether he will attempt to pardon himself.

Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James, during an appearance on “The View” Tuesday, proposed one of the wildest theories about how it might all play out that I’ve heard. Here it is:
“The vast majority of legal scholars have indicated that he cannot pardon himself. What he could do is step down and allow … Vice President [Mike] Pence to pardon him. I suspect that he will pardon his family members, his children, his son-in-law, and individuals in his administration as well as some of his close associates. And then I suspect, at some point in time, he will step down and allow the vice president to pardon him.”
Which would be wild, right?!
    Not least of which because it would evoke — in broad strokes — President Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon in 1974. (Ford pardoned Nixon September 8, 1974 — a month after Nixon resigned amid the gathering Watergate scandal.)
    There’s no question that Pence could pardon Trump if Trump resigned sometime over the next 42 days, but it’s somewhat hard to believe it would actually happen. For a few reasons:
    1) Trump believes he has the ability to pardon himself. “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?” Trump tweeted back in June 2018. That is, as James noted above, a point of considerable contention. While the presidential pardon power as laid out in the Constitution is extremely broad — the president “shall have the Power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of Impeachment” — it has never been tested, legally speaking, regarding a president pardoning himself. But no past president has ever tried it! So, while the legal community has long debated the possibility, there is no test case on which precedent has been set.

    2) Generally, a crime comes before a pardon. It’s not clear what specific crime for which a President Pence would pardon former President Trump.
    3) Trump would hate the Nixon comparison: Despite his seeming dismissal of the history of the office he now holds, Trump is, without question, aware of what sort of legacy he will leave behind. And being compared directly to the only president to resign the office — a forced resignation at that — isn’t any presidential club that Trump wants to join. He knows, too, that the message such a series of machinations — his resignation, Pence’s ascension to the presidency, then the pardon — would send to the public. That message would be unmistakable: I know I’m guilty.
      For all of those reasons, I doubt that James, who is currently leading an investigation into whether Trump and his family company purposely over and undervalued their assets to avoid taxes, is correct in her prediction about how these last six weeks of the Trump administration play out on the pardon front.
      But the very fact that it’s impossible to rule out any possibility — including this one — speaks to how far Trump has bent the norms of presidential conduct over his four years in the White House.

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