There Is No ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card for the President, by John W. Whitehead

What President Trump doesn’t know about the Constitution would fill a multi-volume set. From John W. Whitehead at

When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.“—Richard Nixon

Someone needs to alert Donald Trump: there is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card just for being president.

According to Trump’s Twitter feed, he believes that he has an absolute right to pardon himself of any crimes for which he might be charged while serving in office.

He’s not alone in this imperial belief.

Two of Trump’s lawyers have attempted to float the idea that “the president’s powers are so broad as to make it impossible for him to have obstructed justice.”

Rudy Giuliani, another of Trump’s enablers, insists that Trump could even get away with shooting the FBI director in the Oval Office and not be prosecuted for murder. “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani argued, claiming a president’s constitutional powers are that broad.

It’s a losing argument.

Back in 1974, four days before Richard Nixon resigned, the Department of Justice concluded, “Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself.”

To suggest otherwise, to empower the President to chart his own course and establish his own rules, not bound by the legislative or judicial branches of the government, is to effectively place him “above the law.”

In operating above the law, the president thus becomes a law unto himself—a dictator, an imperial overlord, a king.

Yet the United States government—a constitutional republic—is predicated on the notion that the law is supreme, and that no person, no matter how high-ranking, is able to flout it.

In other words, in America, the law is king.

That is the ideal that Thomas Paine put forth in his revolutionary treatise Common Sense. As Paine observed, “But where, say some, is the king of America? … The world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

When we refer to the “rule of law,” that’s constitutional shorthand for the idea that everyone is treated the same under the law, everyone is held equally accountable to abiding by the law, and no one is given a free pass based on their politics, their connections, their wealth, their status or any other bright line test used to confer special treatment on the elite.

To continue reading: There Is No ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card for the President

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