After seeing this question, I was wondering what would happen if the President simply didn't respond to jury duty to the point that he was breaking a law. That, then, escalated to the thought of a President issuing a pardon for themselves. Could it happen? What about other powers, like commute or clemency?

  • @notstoreboughtdirt I'm amazed that question didn't come up in any search I made or the "related questions" that appear when typing the question. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


Likely yes.

The power of pardoning comes from Article II, Section 2 of the constitution -

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.

This makes no mention against self-pardons.

Now you might ask 'OK, well Congress can just impeach the president before they pardon themselves'. In reality that wouldn't work. Logistically a president would be able to push the pardon through before Congress could get the impeachment through, even if Congress had a head start.

Now I think if this would happen in reality the president wouldn't be able to get away with it. Whether it be an armed revolt or the legislature passing some retroactive amendment, I think that a president pardoning themselves just wouldn't fly. After all, why didn't Nixon just pardon himself?

  • I found this reference that says he could have but chose not to do so as part of the agreement to resign. When President Ford took office he pardoned President Nixon, not exactly a popular move. Since Nixon was not impeached but instead resigned, one of his last acts could have been a self-pardon. Similarly, President Clinton could have pardoned himself for perjury but chose not to do so. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:50
  • Note that even if he pardoned himself, and avoided going to jail, congress could still impeach him and kick him out of office. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:52
  • @sabbahillel Yes, he didn't do it because he knew he was getting it from Ford and there was no need to. But in theory he didnt even need to wait for Ford. He could have just done it, stuck out his tongue and sailed off into the sunset. Except I think he knew that if he did that he wouldn't last long Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:53
  • I actually saw a some fiction in which a president pardoned assassins who were getting rid of his political enemies. The author overlooked the Federal crime restriction. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:55

google is your friend. It appears from a number of articles that a president could pardon himself (theoretically) except that this would only apply to Federal criminal indictments and not for impeachment. That is, if being impeached, the president is not being handled by the normal court system and cannot bypass the House and Senate. It also appears that crimes committed in another country would not be covered by this pardon power as extradition would be handled by the next president. If the president committed a state crime (such as bank robbery or murder) he would not have the power to pardon himself.

Offenses Against the United States

Offenses Against the United States.—There are no common-law offenses against the United States. Only those acts which Congress has forbidden, with penalties for disobedience of its command, are crimes.7 Actions to recover penalties imposed by act of Congress generally but not invariably have been held not to be criminal prosecutions,8 as is true also of deportation proceedings,9 but contempt proceedings which were at one time not considered to be criminal prosecutions are no longer within that category.10 To what degree Congress may make conduct engaged in outside the territorial limits of the United States a violation of federal criminal law is a matter not yet directly addressed by the Court.11

Can A President Pardon Himself?

The right to pardon is an authority given to the President of the United States (POTUS) by the US Constitution in Article II, Section 2. This section specifically reads that the POTUS “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” Essentially, the only way presidential pardon is restricted by the constitution is under the circumstance of the sitting president being impeached. Self-pardon is not restricted by law, and under interpretation by the Supreme Court, a president could have the right to pardon himself not only for crimes he has committed, but also for crimes with which he has not yet been charged. As of yet, no president has actually pardoned himself for committing crimes or from actions that might later be considered crimes.

Can President Clinton Pardon Himself?

The simplest interpretation is that the president can pardon any federal criminal offense, including his own, but cannot pardon an impeachment. In other words, Clinton is free to immunize himself from criminal prosecution, but has no power over Congress.

Pardon Power

The power to pardon is one of the least limited powers granted to the President in the Constitution. The only limits mentioned in the Constitution are that pardons are limited to offenses against the United States (i.e., not civil or state cases), and that they cannot affect an impeachment process. A reprieve is the commutation or lessening of a sentence already imposed; it does not affect the legal guilt of a person. A pardon, however, completely wipes out the legal effects of a conviction. A pardon can be issued from the time an offense is committed, and can even be issued after the full sentence has been served. It cannot, however, be granted before an offense has been committed, which would give the President the power to waive the laws.

  • I'm not super familiar with politics, so I was unsure which results would be considered "reputable". The couple I clicked through to didn't have satisfactory answers, suggesting that they had no idea since arguments could be made either way (but not offering where those arguments would be coming from). Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:56

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