The law on self-par­dons is clear.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Twit­ter: @ProfBri­anKalt

Trump an­nounced on Twit­ter that “I have the ab­so­lute right to PAR­DON my­self,” prompt­ing a raft of le­gal schol­ars to con­fi­dently weigh in. Lau­rence Tribe, Richard Pain­ter and Nor­man Eisen wrote in The Post, “The Con­sti­tu­tion specif­i­cally bars the pres­i­dent from us­ing the par­don power to pre­vent his own im­peach­ment and re­moval.” On the other side, schol­ars like Jonathan Tur­ley and Richard Pos­ner have agreed with Trump, not­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion’s seem­ing lack of lim­its when it gives the pres­i­dent “Power to grant Re­prieves and Par­dons for Of­fenses against the United States, ex­cept in Cases of Im­peach­ment.”

But the law sim­ply is in­de­ter­mi­nate here. This is an un­set­tled le­gal ques­tion with col­orable ar­gu­ments on both sides; all we can say is that a pres­i­dent could try to par­don him­self, and that it might or might not work.

In my opin­ion, the best read­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion sug­gests that a self-par­don would be in­valid. (I first wrote against self-par­dons in the Yale Law Jour­nal in 1996 and have re­turned fre­quently to the sub­ject since then.) But say­ing what you think a judge should do is very dif­fer­ent from know­ing what a judge will do, even if you think you can see a unan­i­mous Supreme Court de­ci­sion in your crys­tal ball.

Brian C. Kalt, a law pro­fes­sor and the Harold Nor­ris fac­ulty scholar at Michi­gan State Univer­sity, is the au­thor of “Con­sti­tu­tional Cliffhang­ers: A Le­gal Guide for Pres­i­dents and Their En­e­mies.”

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