The Press

Trump hints at self-pardon


"While all agree the US president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us." Donald Trump tweet

UNITED STATES: Donald Trump asserted he has ‘‘complete power to pardon’’ as he attacked the multiplyin­g investigat­ions into potential links between his campaign and Russia during last year’s presidenti­al election.

The president’s interventi­on followed reports that he and his legal team had explored his authority to pardon assistants, family members and possibly even himself. The president said there was currently no need to use the power, because nothing wrong had been done. But his comment set up the potential future prospect of a constituti­onal crisis as the idea of a president self-pardon has never been tested.

Trump wrote on Twitter: ‘‘While all agree the US president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.’’

That was a reference was referring to the latest leak from US intelligen­ce agencies suggesting Jeff Sessions, his embattled attorney general, discussed ‘‘substantiv­e’’ issues with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. Kislyak was recorded by US agents in 2016 telling colleagues in Moscow that he discussed with Sessions campaignre­lated matters, and prospects for US-Russia relations in a potential Trump administra­tion.

Their first encounter was in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington before Trump’s first major foreign policy speech. The second was in July 2016 at the Republican national convention. At the time Sessions was a US senator and key foreign policy adviser to the candidate.

A US official said: ‘‘The question is whether he crossed the line and discussed classified informatio­n, or talked about deals like lifting sanctions if the Russians were interested in investing in the US, or had dirt on Secretary Clinton.’’ Sessions, America’s top prosecutor, has previously denied, and continues to deny, discussing campaign issues with Russian officials.

But in March he recused himself from an investigat­ion being carried out by his own Justice Department into links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump lashed out at Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is now investigat­ing any links to Russia, calling on him to focus instead on Hillary Clinton’s email practices when she was US secretary of state, and the conduct of James Comey, who Trump fired as FBI director.

The president wrote on Twitter: ‘‘So many people are asking why isn’t the special counsel looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 emails deleted...’’

The revelation about Sessions in The Washington Post capped one of the worst weeks of Trump’s presidency following the failure in the US Senate of his attempt to overhaul America’s healthcare system, and flounderin­g public approval ratings. Trump had been seeking to turn a corner, boosting his image by appointing Anthony Scaramucci as new communicat­ions director on Friday, local time, and launching the USS Gerald R Ford, a US$12.9 billion nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

But the appointmen­t of Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier, led to the immediate departure of Spicer, and the possibilit­y of further internal turmoil. Speculatio­n mounted over the future of Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff. One former administra­tion adviser suggested there may be a ‘‘dam burst’’ of officials leaving. Trump praised Spicer as a ‘‘wonderful person with a bright future’’.

Spicer said he left to avoid there being ‘‘too many cooks’’ in the White House and to give Scaramucci a ‘‘clean slate’’.

Trump also ratcheted up his attacks on the media, accusing the New York Times of having a ‘‘sick national security agenda’’ and ‘‘foiling a US attempt to kill’’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. That followed comments by General Tony Thomas, head of Special Operations Command, that a ‘‘good lead’’ had been gained from a raid in Syria in 2015 but ‘‘went dead’’ after details were leaked. Fox News reported he was referring to a report at the time in the New York Times. The newspaper said the Pentagon had raised no such objection to their story before it was published.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, have agreed to be interviewe­d in private by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is also investigat­ing potential links to Russia.

- Telegraph Group

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