On the night of July 20, 1969, I went outside and looked up at the moon in the night sky under which I stood and said to myself, “Tonight I live in a world where man has walked on the moon.” It was a personally revolutionary moment dividing my existence in two, the time before man walked on the moon and the time after. The significance of that moment and the divide it represented has never left me.
Today is a new day of similar bifurcation. When Donald Trump awoke on Wednesday morning it was still possible for him to resign and be pardoned. It may have even been possible (some have argued) for him to lose the 2020 election and pardon himself before leaving office. Those days are over. Come what may, it is no longer possible for Donald John Trump to receive a pardon for any crimes he committed while president of the United States.
How do I know this? Because the Constitution of the United States says so. Article II, section 2 of the Constitution says “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment” [italics added]. In other words, because Trump is, after Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton, the third president to be impeached, he is now and for all time ineligible for presidential pardon.
Recall that in September of 1973, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. The only reason he was able to do this is because, though the House of Representatives had drafted and passed in committee articles of impeachment against Nixon, no vote of the complete House had been taken and thus Nixon had still not yet been impeached and so, Constitutionally speaking, he was therefore pardonable.
Recall further that before leaving office, Bill Clinton confessed to the American people that he lied under oath officially by admitting that he was guilty of “testifying falsely” when he denied an affair with Monica Lewinsky during a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit. By so doing he effectively put out of reach any prosecution for perjury he may have faced. Clinton understood that there was no pardon mechanism available to rescue him from such a charge, and it was doubtful that George W. Bush would avail himself of it in any event.
So we may now rest easier. Come what may, a pardon for Trump is now off the table and for all time. But this call for easier rest comes with a caveat. Trump is now doubly dangerous. His safe exits out of the Oval Office are now blocked. We must therefore work diligently and work together to see him out of office and gone from political life in 2020.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.