Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
This week the House Judiciary committee holds its own public hearings on the Ukraine situation, which will build upon the information and testimony from the House Intelligence committee hearings to draft articles of impeachment that the entire House of Representatives will then put to a vote.
Committee chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has chosen to open these hearings with a sort of educational session for the American people, bringing forth a panel of constitutional scholars to discuss the standards by which a president may face such a serious action. I’m very curious to see if the key phrase from Article II, Sec. 2 that Robert Reich points out in this column regarding the power of the presidential pardon “except in cases of impeachment” will be interrogated by this panel. As Reich notes, Ford’s pardon of Nixon occurred after the latter resigned but before the House could formally impeach him, and there’s a viable argument that had Nixon waited any longer no pardon would have been forthcoming.
Note the following: Ford’s pardon of Nixon was a blanket over specific dates without having to name specific crimes.
“Now, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”
The argument on the table seems to be that the crimes that might lead to his impeachment could not be pardoned by anyone if he is actually impeached, per the same Article that Ford used above. If Trump gets impeached and then decides to resign, President Pence would be unable to pardon him if federal prosecutors now chose to indict him for the same crimes that were named in the articles of impeachment.
Trump is in jeopardy of multiple indictments for his participation in both Russian election interference and extortion of a sovereign ally once he is no longer shielded by the office of the presidency (a technicality that is itself dubious and being upheld by a compromised Department of Justice). And one wonders if Nadler will take the opportunity of his opening to speak directly to Trump and his advisers here, suggesting that perhaps this is his final shot at getting out from under the worst of this.
It will surprise me, mind you, if Trump reaches for this life preserver. His raging defiance and stranglehold on the GOP apparatus indicates that he is caught between suffering practical consequences and suffering a blow to his ego, but he is a creature of whim and impulse. When faced with a choice between immediate and lesser pain or more permanent damage further in the future, he will eschew the former and assume he has time to escape the latter.