The US Constitution binds the president to exercise his powers while taking care “that the Laws be faithfully executed”. But, for a moment, let it be assumed that Trump is right.
The only thing that can be reliably said of US president Donald Trump is that the president has a penchant for wading into controversies. Even as he called the appointment of a special counsel in the Russia investigations “illegal”, he insisted that he could legally grant himself “absolute pardon” in the matter, but didn’t need to because he has done “nothing wrong”. Inglorious, it may sound, but inglorious may not strictly be unconstitutional or illegal, and hence, legal experts have been weighing in on whether Trump has the correct assumption about his powers as president.
The central claim of a ‘confidential’ memo from Trump’s lawyers to special counsel Robert Mueller—the contents of which have been widely reported in the American media—is that it is impossible for the president to illegally obstruct the probe because, as president, Trump has the power to either terminate the probe itself or pardon himself if found complicit in rigging the 2016 presidential polls. The US Constitution binds the president to exercise his powers while taking care “that the Laws be faithfully executed”. But, for a moment, let it be assumed that Trump is right.
The problem then is that Richard Nixon should have simply pardoned himself in the Watergate scandal, and stood not guilty of ordering FBI to stand down in the investigation as well as of paying the defendants in the case to buy their silence on his office’s and aides’ role in the matter. Ronald Reagan could have walked away unsullied in the Iran-contra matter and, Bill Clinton, wouldn’t have looked the way he did at the end of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. All these instances have established that the US president, whoever graces or disgraces the Oval Office, is quite capable of obstructing justice, and any way he/she does that, makes the act unconstitutional.