A Trump self-pardon could make criminal charges more likely

Trump has raised the possibility of a self-pardon in recent days as calls grow for him to face prosecution for inciting the U.S. Capitol siege that resulted in five deaths and sent members of Congress scrambling for safety. But though the president has vast authority to grant clemency to others, a self-pardon would be a novel assertion of executive power that both Democrats and Republicans might want the Supreme Court to strike down.

“It would almost set himself up as a sitting duck to be prosecuted,” said Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor. “It takes the edge off the idea that you’re going after somebody just because they were a political opponent in the prior administration.”…

“If the president can pardon himself, there’s no recourse for federal crimes that he has committed,” said Jessica Levinson, a constitutional law professor at Loyola Marymount University, “and that’s not really how our system is set up.”

Akerman points to the verb “grant” as evidence that a pardon is something the president can only bestow on others.

“It’s a transitive verb, the object of which is somebody other than the person doing the granting,” he said. “Linguistically, it doesn’t make sense that you can pardon yourself.”