Although it would be totally unprecedented, it is possible that President Donald Trump may pardon himself for his role in Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Whether or not presidential pardon powers extend to a self-pardon by a sitting president is unclear. The issue ultimately would be solved in the nation’s high courts. In the meantime, while tempers flare on both sides of the political aisle, Trump would remain pardoned and free from prosecution. Conceivably, Trump could stretch out the debate to the end of his first term of office and leave office on January 20, 2021, as a one-term president.

Although Trump may be facing a GOP Primary Election challenge from Tennessee Senator Bob Corker in 2020, he most likely would not run after pardoning himself. The political ramifications of his self-pardon, from both Democrats and Republicans alike, would be so negative that another presidential campaign by 'the Donald' would be inconceivable. Tweets, put-downs, and name-calling no longer would suffice as political tools by Trump and his cronies. Trump would become the first president since Lyndon Johnson not to run for a second term.

Presidential resignation

Of course, another, and possibly more likely, scenario in the aftermath of a self-pardon by President Trump, is a presidential resignation.

Although a pardon would save Trump from the prospects of federal criminal charges, it would not save him from impeachment in Congress. Impeachment has its own protocol and is not tied to the federal courts. Although the charges upon which a president can be convicted in federal court are pardonable by a sitting president, impeachment charges are not pardonable by anyone.

Once articles of impeachment have passed in the House of Representatives, they must be submitted to the United States Senate for a trial. If two-thirds of the Senators, acting as a jury, vote to "convict" the President, he is automatically removed from office. Most likely, then, if Trump were to pardon himself, he would have to resign from office to save himself from impeachment.

Like Richard Nixon, Trump would be forced to resign from office to avoid impeachment. A pardon would not save him from impeachment, but resignation most likely would do so.

Another somewhat likely scenario is that Trump would resign, effective on a specific date and time, and then pardon himself on Air Force One as he is flying home before the bewitching hour. When Nixon was flying home to California on the day of his resignation, August 9, 1974, he still was President for a couple of hours. Gerald Ford was sworn in as President in the middle of Nixon's flight home. As Nixon's flight home began, there was widespread concern that he would pardon himself before Ford took office. It is highly conceivable that if Trump were to resign to avoid impeachment, that he would pardon himself on Air Force One as he flies home to New York State or south to Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Manafort, Gates, and Papadopoulos

Meanwhile, on Monday, indictments of Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's longtime business associate Rick Gates were handed down by a federal grand jury. The indictments, which were written by special counsel Robert Mueller, entailed up to a dozen very serious charges for both men, including conspiring against the United States, money laundering, and functioning in the capacity of unregistered foreign agents.

Also on Monday, it was revealed that Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had been arrested by the FBI earlier this year and had pleaded guilty to misleading investigators regarding Russia in early October 2017. Papadopoulos stands as a convicted felon, and, as such, he is in a formidable position to cooperate with Mueller, the FBI, and other federal authorities to avoid a long prison sentence.

All three men could be pardoned by Trump of any and all federal charges against them, and, in Papadopoulos' case, of his federal conviction. However, Trump cannot pardon the three men, or anyone else for that matter, of any and all state charges against them.

The political ramifications

The political ramifications of a Trump pardon of Manafort, Gates, and Papadopoulos could be devastating for Trump and his Administration. First of all, the pardons could be perceived of as obstruction of justice, which is a very serious federal crime. Also, a pardon would free the men to testify against Trump without fear of prosecution.

On the other hand, Trump’s failure to pardon the trio could force them to turn over evidence and plead against Trump in an effort to attain immunity from prosecution.

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