Quote Of The Day: Larry Tribe On Self-Pardons

I used the 1967 class picture of the Warren Court not out of nostalgia for an all-male SCOTUS but out of respect for the legacy they left behind. It’s still there some 53 years later but it’s been eroded by subsequent courts. The current court seems poised to take an ax to what’s left.

Laurence Tribe is on record that Bill Brennan (first row on the right) was the greatest judge of the 20th Century. I concur. That concludes this brief historical preamble.

Professor Tribe appeared on The Last Word with Laurence O’Donnell last Thursday. The topic was a president’s ability to pardon themselves. Since I couldn’t find any transcripts on the MSNBC web site, here’s an extensive quote from Raw Story:

Prof. Tribe noted that Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution says the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” But Tribe noted the very next section says the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

“It doesn’t say “except the criminal laws.” It doesn’t say ‘except when he chooses to violate the criminal laws.’ Now, if it were true, as Donald Trump said in the little segment you played, that the president has the absolute power to grant himself a power of pardon, to grant himself a pardon — which would be an odd way for the framers to have put it, you grant things to other people — if he had the absolute power to grant himself a pardon, if he knew that throughout his presidency, and if all presidents knew it, what would follow is that presidents do not have to follow the law,” Tribe explained. “They can’t be, according to the Justice Department, indicted while they’re in office, and if at any time they could pardon themselves…if that were the case then the president would not be below the law, he’d be above it.”

“There would be no limit. Every president would know from the very moment — puts his hand on that Bible and takes the oath — that whatever he does, or she does, during the four-year term of that presidency, could not be criminally prosecuted, either during the presidency or ever in the future because the pardon would cover everything that president had done,” Tribe explained.

The founders had just revolted against a high-handed and bat shit crazy King over his abuses of power. There’s no way they would have given the executive unlimited pardon power.  If cooler heads such as Edmund Burke had prevailed at the time, we might be members of the Commonwealth with our own National Health Service like Canada.

Additionally, the deservedly maligned Justice Department memo that states that a president can’t be indicted while in office also maintains that they cannot pardon themselves. The Impeached Insult Comedian has relied on the “no indictment” language and is trying to have it both ways by ignoring the bar on self-pardons. If he tries it, I think it will extend his legal losing streak, especially if he has his current legal team handle it.

I usually don’t like calling prominent people by their first and/or nicknames. It makes them sound as if they’re imaginary friends or some such shit. I make an exception with Laurence Tribe because of a story I told about one of my law professors:

One of the names Con Law dropped was Laurence Tribe. He never called him by either his full name or title and surname, he was always Larry Tribe. Con Law turned both names into a multi-syllabic pronunciation extravaganza. There would come a point in most classes that I’d nudge a friend and whisper, “here IT comes.” The IT in question was a Larry Tribe name drop; usually about how they’d discussed an issue and agreed on it. It was Con Law and Larry Tribe against the world, y’all.

Con Law’s relentless braggadocio was the reason I used the voice of the pathological liar character in my impression. Not because Con Law was lying but because of his OTT boasting. It was actually charming in a cocky short man kind of way. Con Law may have been short but he ran with the big boys including Larry Tribe.

To this day when I see Professor Tribe on teevee or read his tweets, I think of Con Law and hear his voice in my head saying Larrrr-eeee Tryyyyyy-buh. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Read the whole post. It’s one of my personal favorites.

The last word goes to Lawrence and Laurence on The Last Word on December 2:

5 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day: Larry Tribe On Self-Pardons

  1. Does anybody really doubt that Trump is going to give blanket pardons to himself, his kids, and his cronies? One more giant fuck you to everybody. See you in court, if you dare.

    1. He’ll definitely pardon the whole gang BUT I think the resign and pardon scenario should be more likely. Of course, Trump is stupid so…

  2. I seem to recall (a dicey business at my *ahem* age) an article a couple of years ago that traced the President’s constitutional pardon power back through English common law and the sovereign’s power to pardon criminal offenses. There was some elucidation that the sovereign was chosen by God Almighty to occupy such an elevated station, and served as a direct link between the people and the deity. The article concluded that the sovereign couldn’t self-pardon, because that would be arrogating the role of the almighty to a fallible human being.

    I know how some legal types practically swoon when a legal argument reaches back to English common law, but in this instance, it seems warranted. And if so, then Trump ought not to have the power to pardon himself, directly or indirectly (such as resigning with the understanding that his chosen successor would pardon him).

    1. Tribe made in this point in a 2017 WaPo oped along with the points he made last week.

  3. With the Supremely Deplorable Six on the court (Lawless John, StripSearch, Token, Kav, Squi, and now Virus) even manifestly wrong arguments that Trump can’t self-pardon are likely to get a “*this* time only, get out of jail free” card.

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