Washington: The White House has been swamped by resignations after the disgraceful incidents at Capitol Hill, even as some Republicans have joined the chorus among Democrats calling for President Donald Trump to be removed from office without waiting until the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr on January 20.
However, a New York Times report points out that the prospect of actually cutting short Trump’s tenure in his last days appears bleak.
Vice President Mike Pence himself, in private, has ruled out invoking the disability clause of the 25th Amendment to boot out the president, as many had urged he and the cabinet ought to do, according to officials.
Nonetheless, the highly volatile debate about Trump’s capacity to govern even for less than two weeks has underscored the simmering anger after the invasion of the Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, media reports suggest the embattled President has discussed with his close aides the possibility of pardoning himself before he exits the office on January 20.
According to CNN, some of those conversations happened in recent weeks, and Trump has asked about the legal and political consequences of a self-pardon. It is not clear if the issue has again come up since Wednesday's mayhem.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer both said on Friday that Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution to remove Trump from power.
Trump, who has issued a series of pardons to political allies and friends, had said in a 2018 Twitter post: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.”
A presidential self-pardon is untested and experts are divided on its constitutionality. A Justice Department legal memo says the president cannot pardon himself but he can step down and ask his vice president to take over and pardon him. However, that memo is not binding.
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig noted last year that a self-pardon would trigger a series of legal challenges seeking to undo the manoeuvre. A prosecutor first would have to indict Trump, notwithstanding the self-pardon. Then the issue would be litigated in the courts, likely up to the Supreme Court.
While all presidents issue controversial pardons at the end of their terms, Trump has moved at a faster pace than his predecessors, demonstrating little inhibition for rewarding his friends and allies using one of the most unrestricted powers of his office.
The president has also reportedly considered issuing pardons to his family members, including daughter Ivanka Trump, sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr, as well as aides like Jared Kushner and his personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the NYT report said.
A self-pardon would complicate the already fraught question for the Biden Justice Department about whether to investigate and ultimately prosecute Trump.
Democrats and former Justice Department officials contend that if Trump pardons himself and the Justice Department declines to prosecute him, it will send a troubling message to Americans about the rule of law and to future presidents about their ability to flout the law, the report said.
The only president to receive a pardon was Richard Nixon. A month after Nixon left office, his former vice president, Gerald Ford, pardoned him for all crimes he committed in office.
The move was widely criticised at the time as allowing the presidency to hover above the law. Ford supporters later blamed the pardon for his election loss two years later, though ultimately the pardon came to be seen as a move that helped the country move on from the Watergate scandal. (Input PTI)
Trump warned he may face criminal charges
The US Justice Department has said it does not rule out pursuing charges against President Donald Trump for his possible role in instigating the insurgents that ran amok on Capitol Hill.
‘‘We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,’’ Michael Sherwin, the US attorney in Washington, said at a press conference.
Though President Trump’s initial response to the mob bordered on indifference, in his subsequent 3 minute video remarks, Trump denounced the violence on Capitol Hill.
‘‘To those who engage in the acts of violence and destruction: You do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay,’’ he said.
But he also ended with a warm send-off message to his supporters.
‘‘To all of my wonderful supporters. I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning,’’ he said. Donald Jr. and Rudy Giuliani could also come under the scanner for their statements to the mob.