Can Trump pardon himself if he wins in 2024?

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Over half of Americans (55%) would disapprove of former President Donald Trump pardoning himself if he were convicted in the classified documents case and reelected as president in 2024, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll has found. That’s compared with just 28% who would approve, according to the survey of 1,626 U.S. adults conducted from June 16 to 20.

Meanwhile, in the growing field of Republican candidates in the 2024 presidential race, Trump still leads in polling, even though he is facing an indictment on federal charges over his handling of classified documents.

Jeffrey Crouch, an assistant professor of American politics at American University and an expert on executive clemency, explained to Yahoo News whether, and how, the former president could pardon himself if he’s reelected.

At a podium bearing an election poster for his campaign, former President Donald Trump looks bullish.
Former President Donald Trump addresses supporters at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13 after appearing in a Miami court for his indictment. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

What is a presidential pardon, and what does it do?

“A pardon is the most complete form of forgiveness that the president can offer to someone who has committed a federal offense. The pardon power is mentioned specifically in Article II of the U.S. Constitution,” Crouch said in an email to Yahoo News. “A pardon is one of the two most common forms of presidential clemency used today. A commutation is the other.”

If former President Trump is reelected in 2024, could he pardon himself, and under what circumstances?

“He may be able to pardon himself, but there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this question. We don’t know for sure what would happen, because no president has ever attempted a self-pardon,” Crouch said. “If Trump tried to pardon himself, it would certainly be a controversial decision.”

Could Trump’s vice president pardon him using the 25th Amendment?

“Potentially, yes. This might be an alternate route for a newly elected President Trump who wants to be pardoned but does not want to have to do it himself,” Crouch said.

If Trump issued a self-pardon, would that pose any legal challenges, and how?

“Trump could use his clemency power to try to avoid any federal legal complications he might face after he becomes president again. Legal scholars disagree about whether such a move would work,” Crouch explained.

“One perspective is that the pardon power is quite broad, and the Constitution does not explicitly forbid a self-pardon. The other perspective is that a self-pardon would, among other things, inappropriately allow the president to decide his fate in his own case. At some point, the U.S. Supreme Court would likely have to decide on the constitutionality of a self-pardon.”

Would a presidential pardon apply to state or civil cases?

“The president may only pardon ‘offenses against the United States,’ or federal crimes. The president may not grant clemency for state offenses,” Crouch said.

If another candidate is elected president in 2024, could they pardon Trump, and under what circumstances?

“Whoever is elected president in 2024 could pardon Trump if they wished to do so,” Crouch said. “The leading Republican presidential candidates are currently sorting themselves into groups based on the Trump pardon possibility: [those who say] they would likely pardon him (entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy), [those] who would not (former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson), and [those] who might (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez).

“There may be a long-term political benefit on the Republican side to pledging now to pardon the former president. Of course, President Biden could pardon Trump today. There is no need for him to wait for formal charges to be filed, a trial or sentencing, before granting clemency,” explained Crouch. “But right now, it does not seem that President Biden has any inclination to pardon his predecessor.”