Interview: Local constitutional law professor breaks down Trump’s election lawsuits, presidential pardons


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — State certifications and the will of the people show that President Donald Trump’s time in office is waning, but now, a full month since Election Day, it’s a message he doesn’t seem to be getting. 

This week, a new lawsuit challenging the election results has been filed on his behalf with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, still angling to bring these matters to the highest court in the country.

Trump has also raised a new round of criticism by suggesting he’ll grant pre-emptive pardons for members of his family who’ve been working in his administration and that he will pardon himself.

“It’s an unresolved question. The Supreme Court has never had to address it,” said Clark Kelso, constitutional law professor from the University of the Pacific. “But there’s good opinion that a president cannot pardon himself and the Department of Justice itself has taken the position previously that a president cannot pardon himself.”

But with the preemptive pardons for Trump’s children, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, and other family members, that has historical and legal precedent, he said.

Presidential pardon power is “extremely broad,” Kelso explained, with preemptive pardons having been done with presidents Nixon and Ford, along with pardons of family members, as with then-President Clinton for his brother.

But a pardon does not have to be specific.

“It can be an open pardon for crimes committed during a particular time frame, for example,” Kelso said.

But a presidential pardon can only affect criminal prosecutions, not state prosecutions, he added.

As for the Trump campaign’s election challenges, Kelso said he thinks it’s “highly unlikely we see the U.S. Supreme Court get involved here.”

All of the claims that have been dismissed are state-level claims with “no admissible evidence” of fraud, he added, and the fact that Attorney General William Barr said there was no evidence of widespread, systemic fraud in the 2020 election would “influence a court quietly.”

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