Trump declared on Monday that he has the power to pardon himself in the Russia investigation, as the New York Times points out. This outburst comes just in time, as midterms ramp up all across the nation and Trump’s Congress is in danger of turning blue. Until now, Trump has been relatively quiet about Mueller’s investigation, but he tweeted this morning:
The tweet argues that he has not only done “nothing wrong” but also that “numerous legal scholars” have agreed that he has the right to pardon himself. America does have an innocent until proven guilty principle, so he’s at least sort of right about that one. However, multiple constitutional experts disagree with Trump’s pardon claims. A second tweet, just hours after the first, pushed the statements into full-on accusations.
Exactly how Mueller’s appointment was unconstitutional is unclear. Trump doesn’t give any legal basis for his claims and suddenly seems to be firing off absurd tweets about the investigation, the way he does about everything else. When Mueller was first appointed, Trump’s legal team advised him to stay quiet about the situation and cooperate. In their opinion, avoiding public criticism was key. Trump has since fired his legal team and replaced them, in typical Trump fashion, with attorneys who will let him do as he pleases. Among these new attorneys is Rudy Giuliani, who told the Huffington Post on Sunday that Trump could not be subpoenaed or indicted while he’s in office. In his opinion, Trump would have to be impeached first: “If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”
Following the hiring of Trump’s new legal team, he became more resistant to the investigation. Yet the day after Giuliani’s reckless statements, Trump’s tweets now further escalate the situation into complete ignorance. HuffPo quotes Norm Eisen, a White House ethics lawyer who worked in President Obama’s administration, as saying, “the foundation of America is that no person is above the law. A president can under extreme circumstances be indicted, but we’re facing extreme circumstances.”
Trump has surrounded himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear and stroke his ego as he tweets that many people believe he has accomplished more in his first 500 days than any other president. But as we head into uncertain midterms, his public tantrum concerning the investigation reveals his concern.