Does Anything Prevent Trump from Pardoning Everyone

Could Trump grant pardons to everyone involved with his campaign for any illegal activities? Would he have to specify what those activities were? If his family did anything illegal in the course of running their business, could he pardon them? Could Trump pardon himself? Are there an limits to his power to issue pardons?

He could pardon everyone. That does not stop the congress or senate from doing enquiries. Nor does it stop the FBI from continuing to dig to be sure they know the whole story - in case someone was not pardoned who could be charged. And of course, he cannot pardon against impeachment.

Also, to tie into a different thread - presumably once pardoned, it’s effectively immunity, the person cannot plead the fifth in a grand jury or courtroom situation.

There are no limits.

The President’s power to issue pardons to others for crimes against the United States is absolute.

He does not have to specify individual activities. Ford’s pardon of Nixon said simply, “Now, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”

Note that a pardon can only cover the past; a President may not use the pardon power to immunize future conduct.

It’s never been the case that a President pardoned himself. This aspect is untested.

The pardoned person can, however, refuse to accept the pardon. In that case, the pardon does not become effective, the person involved continues to be a potential suspect of prosecution, and Fifth Amendment rights continue to apply. That’s exactly the scenario which was litigated and decided in Burdick v United States.

The President can only pardon in reference to federal laws. So if someone did something illegal in running their business which is a violation of state law he can still be prosecuted by the state [for example someone who failed to pay their federal income taxes probably also didn’t pay their state income taxes.] The vast bulk of criminal prosecutions are handled at the state level.

But note the President is more likely to be concerned with preventing himself being removed from office than helping out his associates. He can probably well argue that he didn’t know about criminal activities engaged in by associates. But if he starts handling out pardons of this kind he would probably be impeached and removed from office.

You know, I read OP title not in any local situation, but as a Constitutional thought/joke.

  1. Could he proclaim Liberty throughout the Land, and pardon every Federal jailbird en masse through a well-written “everybody get out of jail” document? (Noting the above on the prisoners or cons or not-yet-judged to be cons who have to deal with other judiciaries.)

  2. Which prompts: is a “Presidential Pardon” a thing different from a “Presidential Directive” or “Presidential Order” Do these words have legal force? As opposed to a jotting on a “From the Desk of The President” pad?

  3. Or would he have to sign the x thousand pieces of paper individually, like Steve Martin writing checks for a class-action reparation?
    ETA: #2 spinoff into new OP.

I was reading an article in The Washington post just two days ago about this very topic, and, while there is nothing written in the Constitution that specifically forbids him from doing so, it is presumed by some that SCOTUS would put the kibosh on such an action.

On January 21st, 1977 President Carter ordered a mass pardon for draft dodgers.

Nope. Systematic pardons which apply to classes of criminals as opposed to named individuals are controversial but not unprecedented.

Do pardons cover only federal crimes or federal and state crimes?

Has this actually been tested in court before? It makes sense, but I’ve always wondered if it was just something that’s not done because it would probably create controversy, as opposed to something that’s definitely ruled out.

The main limit to his power to issue pardons is that congress could impeach him if he’s being grossly irresponsible with them. If he started just issuing blanket pardons, it looks like he’s using the power of the office to do grossly illegal stuff, and that could well be too much for congress to take. Plus pardons don’t stop investigations, it would just stop a prosecution. In many cases the damage he’s worried about is information coming out, not other people going to prison.

Something I’ve read in many a cheap men’s adventure novel: The hero/protagonist does something that would normally send him to Federal prison for life(or even be executed), but as the authorities come to take him in, he produces a pre-signed pardon from The Prez pardoning him for whatever crimes he committed-basically a one time only “get out of jail card”. Would this be legal?

Federal only

That’s if granted by the POTUS. State governors can issue pardons for state crimes.

Once someone has received a presidential pardon, their ability to “plead the fifth” to avoid testifying due to potential self-incrimination would go away, right?

Once the pardon has been received and accepted, yes. It can be turned down by the pardonee.

Section 2
1: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

There’s a silly bit in a 24 season where Jack’s nemesis wants presidential immunity before she kills Jack. Of course there was nothing preventing local law from locking her up had she done this even if the President could pardon future crimes.

Could you still “plead the Fifth” out of fear of state-level prosecution? As noted above, the President’s pardon only applies to Federal crimes.