The conventional wisdom in the beltway media is that should President Trump decide to pardon himself if convicted of a crime, Congress would immediately vote to impeach him. But that’s not looking like a probable scenario.
HuffPost recently conducted a test of that hypothesis, asking all 235 House Republicans if they would vote to impeach Trump in the event he decided to pardon himself if he became a casualty of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation. Not surprisingly, HuffPost only got three responses from members’ offices, prompting journalists to track down more than two dozen House Republicans in hallways and ask them directly.
The only definitive “yes” that HuffPost got was from Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), a libertarian-leaning Republican who has voted in line with Trump just 56 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. Based on Trump’s margin of victory in the 2016 election, Rep. Amash was expected to vote in line with him 86 percent of the time.
Other Republicans reportedly dodged the question, either stating that they didn’t believe Trump had the authority to issue a pardon to himself, with others saying that because journalists were asking about a hypothetical question, they didn’t feel the need to answer. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) called the question a “red herring to foment unrest, trouble, and nonsense.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), who is retiring from Congress after his current term ends, also declined to directly answer the question of whether or not he would personally support impeachment following Trump’s tweet hinting that he was considering a self-pardon.
“I don’t know the technical answer to that question, but I think, obviously, the answer is he shouldn’t [pardon himself], and no one is above the law,” Ryan said,
In a Department of Justice opinion issued in August of 1974 — just days before disgraced former President Richard Nixon resigned from office — acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lawton said that based on the premise that “no one may be a judge in his own case,” it would be impossible for a president to issue a pardon to himself.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.