New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow attempted some damage control Sunday following the president’s claim about his power to pardon, saying the issue is not under discussion.
Trump on Saturday asserted he has “complete” power to pardon, following a Washington Post report that he had asked his advisers about his ability to do so for his aides, his family and himself as the Justice Department’s probe continues into whether his campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election.
“The president’s thinking about pardoning nobody,” he said. “It has been coming up a lot, there’s an undercurrent of nonsensical stuff. … The truth of the matter is the president’s not going to have to pardon anybody because the Russian thing is a nonsensical thing.”
“We have not and I continue to not have conversations with the president of the United States about pardons,” he said.
“Clearly, the Constitution does vest a plenary pardon power within the presidency. Whether it would apply to the president himself, I think ultimately would be a matter for a court to decide,” Sekulow continued. “As I said, that’s not something that we’re looking at. … We’re not researching it, I haven’t researched it, because it’s not an issue we’re concerned with or dealing with.”
It’s unclear whether the president does have the power to pardon himself, as the Constitution isn’t explicit on that specific situation and there’s no legal precedent on the matter. Some legal experts believe it would be a conflict of interest for a president to pardon himself, while others say the power is expansive enough to include the chief executive.