White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Monday sidestepped questions from reporters about President Trump’s assertion that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself, arguing that he wouldn’t need to because the president “hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“Thankfully, the president hasn’t done anything wrong and wouldn’t have any need for a pardon,” Sanders said when first asked about Trump’s tweeted claim.
She then went on to repeat that refrain nine times over a 15-minute span during the briefing.
Asked if Trump has ruled out ever issuing a pardon for himself, Sanders returned to the day’s talking point. “Once again, thankfully, the president hasn’t done anything wrong and therefore wouldn’t need one,” she replied.
Earlier Monday, Trump weighed in on the question of whether he could pardon himself for any crimes he might have committed.
“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars,” Trump wrote, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”
The tweet comes amid growing concern among Trump’s legal team over possible charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and the president’s possible obstruction of justice. Over the weekend, the New York Times published a 20-page letter Trump’s lawyers sent to Mueller arguing that he could not have committed obstruction of justice because executive power privileges give him authority over all federal investigations. The letter contends that the Constitution empowers him to “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”
Sanders again professed the president’s innocence when she was asked about another Trump tweet that declared Mueller’s investigation “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”
“The president knows the special counsel isn’t needed because once again he hasn’t done anything wrong,” she said. “There was no obstruction, no collusion and no wrongdoing.”
Sanders was then asked whether the president believes he is above the law.
“Certainly not,” Sanders said. “The president hasn’t done anything wrong.”
NBC’s Peter Alexander tried to reframe the question.
“Does the president believe the framers envisioned a system where the president could pardon himself?” Alexander asked.
“Certainly, very clearly, the Constitution lays out the law,” Sanders replied. “And once again, the president hasn’t done anything wrong.”
On Sunday night, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, argued in an interview with HuffPost that Trump can’t be subpoenaed or indicted while he’s in office — even if he were to have shot his former FBI director.
“If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day,” Giuliani said. “Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”
Sanders was asked if that was “appropriate language” coming from one of the president’s attorneys.
“You would have to ask Rudy Giuliani about his specific comments, but thankfully the president hasn’t done anything wrong,” she replied.
Sanders was asked if Trump’s tweet about pardoning himself means that he is expecting to be charged or convicted of a crime.
“No, because he hasn’t done anything wrong,” she said. “It would be a completely wrong assumption. The president hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Sanders said the same when asked whether Trump has consulted with the Office of Legal Counsel on his pardoning power.
“I’m not aware of an ask,” she said, “but I would reiterate the president hasn’t done anything wrong.”
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