Brett Kavanaugh Won’t Say Whether The President Can Pardon Himself
During his confirmation hearing of Supreme Court, nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh declined to answer whether a president can pardon himself, saying the question is hypothetical.
Kavanaugh, who was the nominee of President Donald Trump, refused to answer a question from Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who asked if he believed Trump’s assessment that he has an “absolute right to pardon himself.”
“The question of self-pardons is something I’ve never analyzed. It’s a question I have not written about. It’s a question, therefore, that’s a hypothetical question that I cannot begin to answer in this context.”
Kavanaugh gave a similar answer to a question from Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. “Can a sitting president be required to respond to a subpoena?” asked Feinstein.
“As a matter of the canons of judicial independence, I can’t give you an answer to that hypothetical question,” Kavanaugh responded.
He argued that these scenarios were hypotheticals that he would not be able to address because of the “Ginsburg rule” — a precedent set during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of not previewing how she would opine on future cases.
His non-answer on the subject of the subpoena, however, is significant given special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian election interference. It is a possibility that, if Kavanaugh were confirmed, he would need to rule on the issue.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said last month that if Mueller were to subpoena Trump, his legal team would fight back in a battle that would end up in the Supreme Court.
After the nomination of Kavanaugh, Senate Democrats have suggested Trump chose Kavanaugh in part as a shield. “If you look at the entire list of 20 or so people that he had, the one person the president could find on that list that would be most assured to rule in his favor should many of the things you’re describing come before the Supreme Court, is this guy,” Senator Cory Booker told MSNBC.