Presidential pardons issue up in US

Published December 7, 2020, 11:56 PM

by Manila Bulletin

With the Trump administration fast drawing to a close in the United States,  President Donald Trump has been reported to be discussing a move to pardon  three of his children – Donald Jr.  Eric,  and Ivanka along with her husband Kared Kushner — along with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Trump has begun to issue pardons to former aides and longtime supporters. Last month, he pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian official  during the transition just before Trump  took office in 2017.

None of Trump’s children has been charged with any crime, but Donald Jr. was once  investigated  by  the FBI  over his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016  campaign. Intelligence officials once raised concerns about Kushner’s  access to top-secret information after he omitted foreign contacts from his application for White House security clearance. President Trump’s private lawyer  Rudy Giuliani has been leading Trump’s  legal campaign to reverse  the  presidential election results in some US states.

Some of Trump’s allies have been urging him to  issue the pardons before he leaves office. Fox News host Sean Hannity, one of Trump’s most loyal supporters, has gone further. He said Tuesday that  Trump “needs to pardon his whole family and himself.” On the same day, reports came out that the Justice Department was investigating a “bribery for pardon” scheme that may  lead to the filing of charges.

A preemptive pardon for himself? The idea may seem bizarre to  some people, but then  there is much in the Trump administration that strikes many people as strikingly different from all previous administrations.  Some of his harshest critics have called his administration an aberration.

 In any case, the US  Constitution  gives the president clemency powers “to grant reprieves and pardons for  offenses against the United States, except on cases of impeachment.” It does  not bar pardons that may appear to be in the President’s self-interest.

Philippine officials will be following US developments  on this issue as the Philippine Constitution has a similar provision. Section 19,  Article VII,  Executive Department, provides: “Except in cases of impeachment,  or as otherwise provided in  this Constitution,  the President  may  grant reprieves, commutations,  and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.”

What is new in the ongoing developments in the US is the possibility of President Trump granting a preemptive pardon for himself. It is not likely that any Philippine president would go to such an extent to escape prosecution.