On Monday, President Trump issued one of his guiltiest looking statements to date when he tweeted out the incorrect claim that “numerous legal scholars” believe he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself, before quickly qualifying that he doesn’t need to pardon himself since he has done nothing wrong.
It was the absurd flailing of a desperate, crooked man. The only person who tweets about pardoning himself is a person who thinks they’ll have to do so sometime soon. With Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team rapidly closing in, the president is arming his last remaining defenses.
As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2018
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As if often the case with the cowards in the GOP who currently hold our government in an iron grip, few rejected Trump’ ludicrous assertion, and none did so in strong enough terms. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was asked if the president can indeed pardon himself. The failed presidential candidate waited an awkwardly long time before responding that it wasn’t a subject he’d studied so he didn’t know.
Now another key Republican is on the record about Trump’s pardon. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), a man as well known for his gelatinous spine as his utter apathy towards the suffering of the poor, finally weighed in on the controversy.
According to Phil Mattingly of CNN, Ryan was asked during a news conference if he’d advise Trump to pardon himself. He said he doesn’t know the “technical answer.”
“I think obviously the answer is he shouldn’t and no one is above the law,” Ryan said.
The wording of the response is no accident. Ryan didn’t rebuff the premise but rather sidestepped. He didn’t say Trump “can’t” pardon himself, he said he “shouldn’t,” which at best implies he’s not sure if the president can issue a pardon to the president, and at worst implies Trump can absolutely pardon himself but simply shouldn’t do it.
If Ryan really believes no one is above the law, he has a moral duty to take stronger action and use stronger language, not some tepid defense of the very core foundations of our democracy. We may have come to expect this kind of behavior from Ryan, but it’s still a stunning dereliction duty on the part of one of our highest elected officials. He should be ashamed.
The moment we allow a president to pardon himself is the moment we slip from a democracy into an outright monarchy.