Trump’s pardon power is vast, “except in cases of impeachment”

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides:

“[The President] shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

What does “exceapt in cases of impeachment” mean? In a living Concstitution, can it be construed to prohibit the President from issuing a pardon as part of a plan to obstruct impeachment proceedings against him?

To stop Trump from going on a pardon spree designed to pardon potential witnesses against him in an impeachment inquiry or proceeding, why can’t the House of Representatives simply initiate an impeachment inquiry? If any questions arise regarding whether it was ïn a case of impeachment, they can litigate the issue.

In a similar vein, if the President issues pardons to witnesses who may be called against him in a criminal investigation, this would appear to constitute obstruction of justice.

Clearly Trump could be prosecuted after he leaves office for committing the crime of obstruction of justice. Whether his pardons would be effective vis-à-vis those he has pardoned is a separate question. There are powerful legal arguments supporting the conclusion that they should and can not be effective.

Why doesn’t the House initiate an impeachment inquiry against Trump, in any event, to prevent him from granting pardons to his co-conspirators in the many crimes he has committed?

Is there a good answer to this question, aside from the simple fear and cowardice of the House Democrats?

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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