Legal Scholar Laurence Tribe argues Trump could be charged for “criminal obstruction of justice” for his pardons

In a new piece for the Financial Times, legal scholar Laurence Tribe claims Trump could be criminally prosecuted for his pardons, arguing “if Mr Trump abuses pardons to shield himself and key allies from justice, that could be charged as criminal obstruction of justice, an abuse of the constitutional power of clemency to accomplish an illegal end.”

Tribe writes “if, as Alexander Pope reflected in 1711, ‘to err is human, to forgive, divine,’ then the US Constitution’s pardon power — the prerogative of forgiveness — should be beyond reproach. Instead, a godless US president who appears incapable of forgiveness has seemingly perverted this instrument of mercy into another grave threat to the rule of law.”

Tribe later writes “Donald Trump’s recent twisting of the pardon power risks leaving a damaging legacy: a blueprint for manipulating this vestige of royal prerogative to place presidents and their cronies above the law. But a remedy exists: investigation and potential prosecution. We must treat any obstructions of justice we uncover as the crimes they are.”

He adds “pardons used as a means of obstructing justice are integral parts of criminal conduct precisely because the president has the formal power to grant them. The very breadth of that power enables a president to deploy it as a tool of criminality. If pardons used to reward silence could be invalidated by the courts, they would be worthless to their recipients and useless in a scheme to interfere with a formal inquiry. The result is not to negate the pardons issued but to expose a president to prosecution for the way he deployed them. If Mr Trump abuses pardons to shield himself and key allies from justice, that could be charged as criminal obstruction of justice, an abuse of the constitutional power of clemency to accomplish an illegal end.”

Tribe concludes “the result is not to negate the pardons issued but to expose a president to prosecution for the way he deployed them. If Mr Trump abuses pardons to shield himself and key allies from justice, that could be charged as criminal obstruction of justice, an abuse of the constitutional power of clemency to accomplish an illegal end.”