President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, making the Sunday talk show rounds, asserted that Trump “probably does” have the power to pardon himself, but would likely not take such an “unthinkable” step.
Giuliani, speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” said “The president of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable. And it would lead to probably an immediate impeachment.”
Also on Sunday morning, as Trump continued to lash out on Twitter against special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Giuliani told ABC’s “This Week” it was unlikely the president’s legal team would allow him to testify before Mueller.
“This is the reason you don’t let the president testify. Our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption,” Giuliani said when asked about shifting explanations from Trump’s legal team on whether Trump was involved in drafting a statement in response to his son Don Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.
Read Newsday’s story by Scott Eidler for a roundup of Giuliani’s remarks, including his statement to the Huffington Post that Trump could hypothetically shoot former FBI Director James Comey and not be indicted.
Trump on Monday decided to tweet that the assignment of a special counsel in the Russia probe was unconstitutional. This is in conflict with what his own lawyers, members of Congress, the Justice Department, and just about everyone else has said -- as well as what's true. He adds in deprecation of the American political system: "Despite that, we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!"
Memo to Mueller
Giuliani’s comments on a possible pardon came in response to questions about the release of a memo Trump’s attorneys issued to Mueller in January, in which they argued the president “could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.”
The 20-page confidential memo, obtained by The New York Times and published during the weekend, was sent to the special counsel by former Trump attorney John Dowd and current attorney Jay Sekulow, months before Giuliani joined the president’s Russia-related legal team.
In the letter, Dowd and Sekulow attempt to make the case that Trump should not have to testify before Mueller because “The president’s prime function as the chief executive ought not be hampered by requests for interview,” and “Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world.”
The memo is available to view online here.
As much as the president’s legal team maintains that Trump has the constitutional power to pardon himself, some Republican and Democratic legal eagles alike beg to differ.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said “there’s no way” Trump will pardon himself, saying such a move could make the president vulnerable to impeachment. Christie also dismissed the argument made by Trump’s lawyers in their memo to Mueller that the president could not inherently obstruct justice.
“It’s an outrageous claim. It’s wrong,” said Christie, a former U.S. attorney. “They were trying to make a broad argument. Lawyers do that all the time in briefs, even, to court.”
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told CNN’s “State of the Union” that were Trump to pardon himself, “that’s almost self-executing impeachment.”
“Whether or not there is a minor legal argument that some law professor somewhere in a legal journal can make that the president can pardon, that’s not what the framers could have intended,” Bharara said. “That’s not what the American people, I think, would be able to stand for.”
Trump’s ‘selective memory’
On Twitter, Trump sought to downplay the involvement of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, chastising the Department of Justice for not notifying him during the 2016 campaign that Manafort was on the FBI’s radar.
“As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign? Should have told me!” Trump tweeted.
Trump followed up: “Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!”
Manafort, who has since been indicted on multiple charges of money laundering and fraud as part of Mueller’s sweeping Russia probe, served as Trump’s campaign director from March through mid-August, including during the GOP convention. The FBI began its Russia probe in July 2016, months after Manafort was hired.
Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg responded to Trump on Twitter, saying Trump had “selective memory” about Manafort’s hiring.
“Donald, Nice selective memory,” Nunberg tweeted. “You hired Paul because you were losing the delegate fight during the primary. If you stuck with Lewandowski, you wouldn’t have been the nominee. You’re lucky Paul worked for you.”
Janison: Big deals elude Trump
Trump, the self-proclaimed “deal maker” and author of “The Art of the Deal,” is making remarkably little visible progress toward big agreements he’s talked about reaching, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Trump and his aides have achieved no clear consensus with fellow Republicans in Congress on: health care legislation, rebuilding roads, new immigration laws, his desired border wall, gun laws, school safety, or the public school curriculum.
Efforts to disarm nuclear North Korea, and to favorably resolve trade tensions with China, Mexico and the European Union, and to cool off the Mideast, remain hazy or stalled.
What else is happening
- Some foreign policy experts worry Trump is handing propaganda victories to North Korea given all the grinning photos that came out of Trump meeting with North Korea’s Kim Young Chol at the White House, according to The Washington Post.
- Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen had his sights set on running for New York City mayor following Trump’s 2016 victory, according to Axios.
- China warned the Trump administration on Sunday that all previously negotiated trade deals with the United States would be off the table if Trump moves ahead with imposing tariffs on Chinese imports, according to an AP report.
- Trump will host an iftar dinner at the White House next week to recognize the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The dinner comes after he skipped hosting the event last year, reports Politico.
- First lady Melania Trump, who has not made any public appearances since returning to the White House from the hospital after having a kidney procedure done two weeks ago, will not be joining the president as he travels to Canada for the G7 Summit and Singapore to meet with Kim Jong Un, according to ABC News.
- Trump has embraced certain red state congressional Democrats, even as the GOP targets them before the upcoming midterm elections, reports Politico.