President Donald Trump has reportedly promised to pardon officials who break the law to fulfill his campaign promise to build a border wall -- and the founders explicitly recommended impeachment and removal for those actions.
The president has directed aides to fast-track construction contracts worth billions of dollars, aggressively seize private land and disobey environmental rules to complete at least 500 miles of the wall, according to current and former officials who spoke to the Washington Post.
Trump has also told those aides he would pardon them if their actions ran afoul of U.S. law, those officials told the Post.
Robert Maguire, research director for the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics, said the founders couldn't have been more clear about their views on presidential pardons and impeachment.
I would just like to casually remind folks that the Founders explicitly discussed the possibility that a president… https://t.co/PiPJQK77Vc— Robert Maguire (@Robert Maguire) 1566959767.0
The ethics watchdog flagged a pair of quotes from founding fathers James Madison, who was the primary author of the U.S. Constitution, and George Mason, discussing what Congress should do about a president dangling pardons for crimes he has ordered himself.
"Now, I conceive that the President ought not to have the power of pardoning," Mason argued during the Virginia ratifying convention in June 1788, "because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may he not stop inquiry and prevent detection?"
Madison argued that the threat of impeachment should be enough to keep a corrupt president in check, and he outlined how that process should work if a president was accused of ordering crimes under the protection of a pardon.
"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," Madison argued. "They can remove him if found guilty; they can suspend him when suspected, and the power will devolve on the Vice-President. Should he be suspected, also, he may likewise be suspended till he be impeached and removed, and the legislature may make a temporary appointment. This is a great security."