White House says Trump is not above the law

The White House on Monday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily immigration detention centers could be at capacity within days: report Trump likely to meet with Putin in July: report DOJ requests military lawyers to help prosecute immigration crimes: report MORE is not above the law, despite his assertion he has the power to pardon himself to avoid punishment in the Russia probe.

“Certainly, no one is above the law,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at her daily press briefing.

Sanders was asked three separate times if Trump believes he is above the law, and she reiterated the president’s belief that he would not need to use a pardon on himself because “he hasn’t done anything wrong.” 

“Thankfully, the president hasn’t done anything wrong and wouldn’t have any need for a pardon," she said.

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Trump raised fears of a constitutional crisis on Monday morning when he claimed in a tweet that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself.

The comment came after The New York Times published a months-old letter from his lawyers to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE that opened the door to extraordinary actions by Trump to curtail the Russia investigation, including pardons for himself or associates who have been charged with crimes. 

Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani responded over the weekend by saying the president “probably” has the ability to pardon himself, but likely would not because it would cause political problems.

Despite Sanders’s claim Monday that the Constitution “very clearly lays out the law,” legal experts say the idea of a self-pardon is untested and are divided over whether it would be legal.

The mere suggestion of a self-pardon, however, prompted criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that the president would be abusing his power if he decided to exonerate himself in the Russia probe. 

“Donald in Wonderland: through a legal looking glass, no President can be prosecuted because whatever he says is the law,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tweeted on Sunday. “Too absurd even for fiction. In fact, no one is above the law.” 

--Updated at 3:33 p.m.