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Top Republican says Trump shouldn’t pardon himself

Top Republican says Trump shouldn’t pardon himself
© Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocratic fury with GOP explodes in House Trump to attack Biden in CPAC speech McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design' MORE (R-Calif.) said Sunday that, despite recent comments from President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE's lawyer, the president should not pardon himself. 

“The president is not saying he is going to pardon himself. The president never said he pardoned himself,” McCarthy told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I don't think a president should pardon themselves.”

McCarthy’s comments came shortly after one of Trump's attorneys, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the president could pardon himself, though he has no plans to do so.

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"He’s not, but he probably does," Giuliani said. "He has no intention of pardoning himself."

"That’s another really interesting constitutional question: Can the president pardon himself?" he continued. "It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by, 'gosh that’s what the Constitution says.’ And if you want to change it, change it. But, yeah.”

Questions over Trump's ability — or desire — to pardon himself swirled Sunday after reports on Saturday revealed that the president's lawyers had sent a confidential, 20-page letter to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE in January arguing that Trump had the authority to, "if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon."

The letter, first obtained and reported by The New York Times, also said Trump could not have obstructed justice because he has unfettered constitutional authority over all federal investigations.

Though McCarthy advised against the president issuing a self-pardon, he defended Trump's recent moves to exercise his power of the pardon.

Trump most recently pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions.

The pardon drew fire from a number of journalists and celebrities who lambasted D’Souza for his history of writing racist and other controversial posts online.

Trump’s recent pardons, McCarthy said, were a demonstration of “exactly what checks and balances are.”

“The president has the power to pardon,” McCarthy said. “That is part of the process of checks and balances and also part of checks and balances.”

D’Souza’s clemency would represent the fifth full pardon issued by Trump in his 18 months in office. He has also pardoned former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.