President Donald Trump has hinted at the possibility that he could pardon Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman who has been convicted of multiple charges of tax fraud and bank fraud.
Even though the president has broad powers to issue pardons of convicted criminals, would pardoning one of his own associates who could potentially implicate him in a criminal conspiracy be a bridge too far?
Conservative author Yuval Levin, citing the original debate over granting the president pardon powers that occurred during the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788, argues that it would be.
In particular, he cites James Madison’s argument that any president who pardoned their own allies to themselves avoid being implicated in criminal behavior would almost certainly face impeachment from Congress.
“There is one security in this case to which gentlemen may not have adverted: if the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty,” Madison said at the time.
Levin cautions, however, that while pardoning Manafort would be “obvious” grounds to impeach Trump, he is not confident that Congress would actually do so.