Popular conservative radio host Mark Levin argued this week that if elected to the White House Donald Trump would have the authority to pardon himself from state charges, according to exiting Justice Dept. policy.
Levin argues that unique circumstances allow a president to pardon himself.
The argument has several components. First, Levin notes that the existing Department of Justice policy against indicting a sitting president is partly explained by the idea that mounting a criminal defense would prevent a president from performing his or her duties.
Second, Levin argues that the same reasoning ought to apply to state indictments of a sitting president, because they could likewise distract the president — and because, in theory, they could be brought by any elected prosecutor in any jurisdiction. It cannot be, Levin argues, that the reasoning for the policy against indicting a sitting president in federal court would not also apply to a state court, where filing indictments is much easier in certain jurisdictions and is often driven by political considerations.
Finally, Levin argues that since a president can arguably pardon himself from federal crimes — a somewhat controversial, but accepted, view — the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause should override state law on pardons as well, for the reasons above.