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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) The Constitution doesn't allow a president to pardon himself—or any person with whom he has illegally conspired. No serious scholar believes "self-pardoning" is legal. This thread discusses why Trump's latest claim is false and dangerous. I hope you'll read and share it.
1/ First, understand that a cardinal rule of constitutional and statutory interpretation—in the Supreme Court and all courts below—has been, for 200+ years, that a judge or justice cannot interpret a constitutional provision or statute in any way that would render it nonsensical.
2/ What this means is that whether a justice or judge has two or two hundred possible explanations for what the Framers meant by a constitutional provision—or politicians meant in writing a statute—the only unacceptable interpretation is the one that creates a nonsensical result.
3/ A nonsensical result is any result that contradicts other provisions or statutes from the same authors, or any result that contradicts the knowable intentions of those authors. Surprisingly, judges and justices don't disagree as often as you'd think about what's "nonsensical."
4/ This principle of constitutional and statutory interpretation is the bedrock of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and it has been for over 200 years—and it's invaluable (and works) because it creates a clear prohibition against whole spheres of legal interpretation.
5/ The Framers of the Constitution—just like those who signed the Declaration of Independence—had participated in a revolution against not just a monarch but a principle: that a leader must never be so removed from the consequences of his actions that his people become powerless.
6/ Trump—and to be clear, Trump and Trump alone, as no serious legal scholar is with him on this, only political operatives who happen to have law degrees—now asserts that a president can commit any crime he wants without being held legally accountable by those who elected him.
7/ First, and most profoundly, this position—which establishes Trump as a new American monarch, a King George for the digital age—runs counter to not just the spirit imbuing each word of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence but the reason those documents were written.
8/ So Trump's claim, via his lawyer, that he has an absolute right to *kill* the Special Counsel without consequence—and yes, that's where we are right now; it's a terrifying time—would fail in the Supreme Court even if the Justices never cracked their copies of the Constitution.
9/ But let's say the Supreme Court Justices *do* crack open their copies of the Constitution—because they *don't* immediately decide it's a "nonsensical result" to hold that a document written to combat tyranny was actually doing its level best to *reinstate* tyranny immediately.
10/ The first thing they'll find is that at no point in the Constitution—a document that delineates who has what power, and further delineates when powers are reserved for other parties than those you might expect—do the Framers say that Trump has the power he now claims he does.
11/ As is confirmed by looking at the myriad documents that surrounded and supported the writing of our Constitution, *not one Framer* intended to—and of all things, *implicitly*, that is, without actually *saying so*—include in the Constitution that one person is above the law.
12/ Saying the Framers intended to put one man above the law—meaning one man could commit crimes with legal impunity—but that they somehow *failed to say so explicitly* is like saying that statutes prohibiting murder *mean* to say (but don't) that you can kill family if you like.
13/ But here's the thing: what the Framers *did* do is *explicitly* say that *no* man is above the law. That is, they explicitly and unambiguously took the opposite position from the one Trump's now taking—as we'd expect, given their animating reason for writing the Constitution.
14/ How did the Framers *explicitly* take this "no-man-is-above-the-law" position? By saying that you don't get to be president if you've committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." That's an *explicit* prohibition—and it's *incredibly* far-ranging, too.
15/ This clause means any president who's been disloyal to America, is corrupt, or is a criminal is disqualified from continuing to serve. "High crimes and misdemeanors" is such a broad term it includes something as amorphous as "abuse of power" and crimes that are misdemeanors.
16/ Consider: one of the crimes a president was impeached for recently was Obstruction of Justice—an offense that sounds dire but is only a misdemeanor (on par, in punishment, with marijuana possession) in most state jurisdictions.

So the Framers wanted no criminals in the Oval.
17/ It's true that the Impeachment Clause lays out what to do *after* a president has committed crimes, been corrupt, or been disloyal—but Supreme Court Justices are trained to read constitutional provisions not just for what they say but for what they are intended to accomplish.
18/ The Impeachment Clause is supposed to act as a *deterrent*—it tries to ensure that no one *will* act a certain way by explicitly *prohibiting* anyone acting that way. The very same theory undergirds *every single criminal statute* ever enacted in the United States of America.
19/ So just as homicide statutes *don't* say, "Kill who you want and we'll deal with it later," the Impeachment Clause is at once telling presidents what they *cannot do* and *also* how we'll deal with them if they do what they're explicitly prohibited from doing. And it matters.
20/ It *matters* because Trump now says—though it violates the purpose of the Constitution; though it doesn't say so in the Constitution; though it explicitly says the opposite in the Constitution—our Founding Fathers wanted him to be able to kill his enemies with legal impunity.
21/ I say "legal impunity" because of course there's a difference between legal and political impunity. We all agree—even Trump—the Constitution doesn't grant Trump political impunity, as impeachment is a political rather than legal process and it's enshrined in the Constitution.
22/ But what Trump does with the bifurcation of "legal" and "political" impunity (or punishment) is *bizarre*—he says that just because impeachment is a political process, it means that the Constitution, a *legal document*, intended to apply no *legal* punishment for his actions.
23/ As we've seen—not just from what the Constitution *is*, but why it was written in the first place, as well as from the Framers' explicit decision to discuss in the Constitution those *illegal* acts a president can't commit—Trump's reading of the Constitution is a non-starter.
24/ Just as self-pardons are unconstitutional—and *themselves* grounds for impeachment—so too are pardons of those who've illegally conspired with a president. This prevents presidents from using pardons to *indirectly* self-pardon by ending probes that could reveal their crimes.
25/ That Trump is lying about what our Constitution says—and about what scholars say about what it says—is less harrowing than the fact that he thinks he'll need to eventually self-pardon because he's committed impeachable crimes.

But Americans will have no more kings—ever. /end
PS/ One claim scoundrels make is that the Framers *so trusted political parties* that they gave to Congress the *exclusive* power to ensure presidents didn't kill their enemies—but the Constitution and its supporting documents confirm the Framers *didn't* trust political parties.
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