Help settle a debate: Can the president pardon his own son if his son gets into trouble?

Say Donald Trump Jr has charges brought up against him for all of this current drama.

CAN his father pardon him or no? Just a simple yes or no answer will do.

I say he can…but a friend of mine is insisting that he can’t due to it being a conflict of interest and that impeachment proceedings would start if he were to do it.

Is this true and I’m the one in the wrong or is my friend in the wrong?

Of course the president can pardon his own son.

“The President…shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”. That’s the Constitution.

If Congress wants to impeach him for abusing his pardoning power, that’s up to them. But the power of the President to pardon federal crimes is unlimited and unreviewable.

There’s a pretty good thread about this in Elections.

I realize it’s not GQ, and you’re going to get opinions mixed with the factual answers there, but you should find some ammo in there to help settle the debate with your friend.

I saw that, but I wasn’t about to read every post in a thread that has 160 replies just to find a “yes” or “no”. I got it in the very first post in this thread, so…thank you. :slight_smile:

The President can only pardon federal crimes. He has no jurisdiction over state crimes, such as murder.

I think your friend is confusing “can” and “should” into one statement.

Better to break it out:

  1. Can the President pardon his own son? Yes. This is a legal question. There is nothing in the broad language of the pardon power that suggests it is limited in the way suggested.

  2. Should the President pardon his own son? That is a political judgment call for the President to make, including assessing whether doing so might trigger impeachment proceedings in Congress, another political question.

And in fact, most crimes in the US are state crimes. And even for the minority which are federal crimes, there’s often a state crime that corresponds to them. Which makes the President’s pardon power not nearly as significant as one might think.

That said, I haven’t heard of any state crimes Mr. Kushner is accused of committing, so in this case the Presidential pardon would probably be sufficient.

Probably no one really wants him in jail, they just want an effective whitehouse, and the impeachment process is the way to get that. Whether or not the son is just a “scapegoat” or actually did that on his own without Donald knowing, Don’s in charge, and the next word is “nepotism” ? So either way, who’s going to take the fall ? When will the Don’s own party vote for impeachment ? When they want to limit the damage done. Usually “the sooner the better” comes to being the phrase on everyones lips. And the accused might think that, and the next thought is “resign now” ala Nixon.

Suppose I came to you and said:

*Can I punch Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Just a simple yes or no answer will do.

I say I can…but a friend of mine is insisting that I can’t due to it being a stupid move and that The Rock would destroy me if I were to do it.*

These are similar situations. Congress would not be legally required to start impeachment proceedings if a President pardoned his own son, bit they certainly (legally) could. And the knowledge that Congress could might be enough to stop the President from issuing the pardon.

But it’s not a guarantee. Just as I could choose to punch The Rock and take my chances, so too could a President decide to take his chances. Maybe Congress wouldn’t begin impeachment proceedings. Maybe they would, but then the proceedings wouldn’t pass the Judiciary committee. Maybe they’d reach the floor of the House and fail to get a majority of votes.

And even if the impeachment occurred, maybe the Senate would not vote to convict and remove the President from office. None of those are guaranteed.

In any event, the President’s legal power to pardon any offense against the United States is unlimited. If he issued a pardon and his son accepted it, then even if he were subsequently impeached and convicted, the pardon would be effective.

Nitpick: It’s not actually unlimited. But there are very few limits, and they’re not relevant here.

The Constitution, quoted in #2, only excepts impeachment. What other limits are you thinking of?

Idle Thoughts, the question was answered in the other thread in the very first response. Did you not read all the way to post #2?

That answer would be a “no”.

Huh? Of course I can punch The Rock. I just have to accept the foreseeable outcomes if I decide to punch him. I might go to jail. I might get my ass kicked. I might make the kids at the hospital where The Rock is visiting cry. Or I could kick his ass, he’s not so tough under all those muscles.

Punching him is a thing that I could do, I just might not like what would happen afterwards.

Actually, you can punch him. The real question is will you survive?

Yes, the president can pardon a relative. Whether congress decides to impeach him afterwards is irrelevant; there’s no mechanism for them to ‘unpardon’ someone, so his son would remain pardoned even if they did impeach him and remove him from office. Congress can impeach the president at any time for any reason (their vote is what decides if something is a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’), so if ‘congress could impeach him for it’ means he can’t do it, then he pretty much can’t do anything.

Bricker’s example was a silly sample of a question that he was comparing to mine about how a question can’t just be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Me, I disagree. I think, in the long run, the answer to my question is, put the most simple (which is what I’m looking for): “Yes”.

Or, in other words, maybe something like “Short answer: Yes… Long answer: Yes, BUT…”

In regards to his example, though, no…you clearly cannot go up to any person and just punch them. That’s assault. It’s against the law. The answer is “no”, put quite simply.

Now if you want to go “long answer…yes (you can punch the Rock), BUT…”…well, go for it. More power to ya. What I’m looking for, though, is a simple yes and no, and I got the answer, thank you. It’s a “yes”.

This is now my last post in this thread.

If you had stopped here, you could have had a simple Yes or No answer. The answer would be Yes, Trump can pardon his son. But you went on to ask -

Is pardoning your son a conflict of interest for which a President can be impeached? Yes. Would impeachment proceedings start if Trump were to do it? Undetermined. Therefore that question cannot be answered Yes or No.


Presidents usually save pardons for the end of their last term so they won’t suffer any political consequences. Not a political jab here, but Trump so far has not shown that he doesn’t care about following presidential traditions, he might pardon his son pre-emptively at any time and be willing to fight out the potential consequences anyway.

No, they don’t. List of Obama pardons. List of Bush 1 pardons. Pardons granted by Clinton. Pardons granted by Bush 2.

I just did the math on Bush 2 and Obama:

For GWB, he pardoned 19 people before Election Day 2004. He pardoned 32 people after Election Day 2008.

Obama pardoned 22 people during his whole first term. He pardoned 142 people after Election Day 2016.

TriPolar’s point isn’t exactly gospel, but it sure isn’t false.