My understanding is, the presidential pardon power is based on this passage of the US constitution:

The President ... shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of impeachment.

I've read that one issue* with the uncertainty about the legality/validity of presidential self pardons is the word "grant" wasn't really used in the context of "grant myself" at the time the constitution was written.

But the pardon power can also apply to entire groups of people. And the president can belong to a group. Based on this, would a presidential pardon become more likely to be legal/valid if it applied to a group of people that included the president, instead of just to the individual? Even if the group was very small and the attempt rather transparent (e.g. "the Trump family", or "current and former Presidents of the United States of America")?

*I'm aware that this is not the only issue, and a possible answer is that the "grant" issue is dwarfed by more relevant legal arguments.

  • 2
    Objection, Your Honor, calls for speculation. (The answer really can't be answered cause we don't have any definitive legal ruling on the case because it's never come up before). At best, this is a call for a debate between responding people and this is not the place on the web to have that.,
    – hszmv
    Jan 8 at 18:47
  • @hszmv I was hoping it would be more clear cut than that. If it isn't, that also is kind of an answer.
    – Peter
    Jan 8 at 18:51
  • On what do you base that pardons can be given to groups?
    – Damila
    Jan 9 at 5:40
  • @Damila Precedent, such as the pardon of Confederates or the one about the Vietnam draft.
    – Peter
    Jan 9 at 11:21
  • Ah. Thank you. Seems the difference was that those were for an undetermined group but for one specific crime.
    – Damila
    Jan 10 at 0:38

There is no precedent for a Presidential self-pardon, and the White House counsel's office has opined that this is not permitted. There is debate within academic legal scholarship over whether a self-pardon is constitutional, although the majority view is that it is not. The fact that a pardon was made to a group in a blanket pardon of certain offenses would not change the analysis significantly.

A previous post at Law.SE analyzing the issue of Presidential self-pardons is here.


This article sums up the state of the law regarding presidential pardon power. In no case has the court ruled that there are people who are unpardonable. There is no question that a presidential pardon is only available for criminal offenses against the US (not civil contempt of court, but including criminal contempt). Presidential pardons do not require higher approval.

  • 2
    They also cannot be overturned once granted.
    – hszmv
    Jan 8 at 19:30

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