Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution establishes the presidential pardon power as follows.
The President shall ... have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
This question is about the caveat "except in Cases of Impeachment".
Consider the following hypothetical sequence of events.
- Vice president Smith commits a federal crime.
- Smith is impeached and removed from office for this crime.
- President Miller pardons Smith for his crime.
- Miller leaves office at the end of his term.
- Smith is charged in federal court over the crime he committed (event #1).
Now presumably Smith will argue that since he was pardoned, the charges should be thrown out. However, the prosecution can argue that the presidential pardon power does not apply in cases of impeachment and, since Smith was indeed impeached and removed from office because of this crime, it does not apply here.
My question: Would this argument succeed? That is, could Smith be convicted despite the pardon?
To be clear, the question is not whether Smith can remain vice president due to the pardon. It is only about whether he can face criminal consequences for the crime he was impeached and pardoned for.
Perhaps a less hypothetical version of the question would be "If Nixon had been impeached and removed from office (rather than resigned), would Ford's pardon still protect him from criminal prosecution?"
I don't expect that it is possible to definitively answer this question, since it is entirely hypothetical. However, I would like to know if there is any relevant precedent or legal analysis.