‘Groundbreaking constitutional times’: Wehle on pardon power

Professor Kimberly Wehle contributed an op-ed to The Hill that lays out the challenges President Donald Trump would likely face if he pardoned Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman indicted last week by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidental election.

In “Legally, Trump can’t pardon Manafort to save himself” (Nov. 3, 2017), Wehle writes that Trump would not necessarily prevail.

“A constitutional challenge to a Manafort pardon would require creative lawyering, to be sure,” Wehle wrote. “But we live in groundbreaking constitutional times. As a matter of historical precedent — which matters to the Supreme Court in novel situations like this one — Trump is not on unassailable ground.”

And, she added, a presidential pardon would not insulate Manafort from indictment by the New York State attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, whose office is also looking into Manafort’s financial transactions.

Concluded Wehle: “Trump can try his hand at more pardons, but the power is no magic wand. … The likely reality is that the grand jury will continue to do its work, Mr. Trump, and the chips must fall where they will.”

Wehle, a former assistant U.S. attorney and associate independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, is the author of the forthcoming book The Outsourced Constitution: How Public Power in Private Hands Erodes Democracy.

Learn more about Professor Wehle.

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