Who can a U.S. President pardon? Do you have this question, which is circulating among Americans? Let’s go to the Constitution for the answer. Be sure to read what powers the President has regarding pardons and reprieves.
Article II, section 2, Clause 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 Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
What We Need to Know
Courts in prior years have dealt with the “Pardons Clause,” but let’s draw out two basics for our purposes. (I am not a lawyer, so I look for basic information that I need to know as a citizen) There are two limits on the President’s power that I see:
1. Look at the words “Offenses against the United States.” This is reasonable and important. The President may give clemency for offenses against the United States, not personal, political, or other offenses.
2. Look at the last line, “except in Cases of Impeachment.” So, a President cannot pardon himself or herself for their impeachment. Only three Presidents have been impeached, and none of them were found guilty by the Senate. Thus, none of them were removed from office. All three men completed their terms.
Why do we even have a “Pardons Clause?” Our Founders, having learned from rulers like the King of England, decided it was to our benefit to temper justice with mercy, a biblical concept.
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