Can Congress Pardon the President?

Here’s another interesting tidbit from the old OLC opinions. If you think that that the President cannot pardon himself, then can Congress pardon the President. The claim here is that a congressional pardon or amnesty would not interfere with the presidential pardon power because the President cannot self-pardon. In effect, a presidential pardon is the only one that Congress may grant.

I’m not sure this right. After all, a president can pardon his predecessor, as a Ford did with Nixon. If Ford had decided that pardoning Nixon was not in the national interest, could Congress overrule him? I would think not. Perhaps Congress could pardon the sitting President, though that would be somewhat strange.

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5 Responses

  1. Henry Cohen says:

    If Congress could issue a presidential pardon, under what enumerated power could it do so?

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    This is one of those moments where the textualist just stops and mutters, “WTF?”

    What basis in the Constitution is there for Congress pardoning the President? Pardoning anybody at all? None, so far as I can see.

  3. Gerard Magliocca says:

    The argument is that Congress could just amend the relevant federal criminal statutes to create an exception for “President Smith.”

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      So, not a pardon as such, but rather a “private bill”. That would be constitutional, I suppose, though it would still be horrible policy.