Former president Donald Trump has been indicted on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in the first degree, entering a plea of not guilty at his arraignment in New York on Tuesday.
Manhattan prosecutors accused Trump of illegally covering up a series of payments, some of which they allege were hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an affair.
The charges do not prevent Trump from seeking or serving a second term in the White House; Trump formally kicked off a campaign for the 2024 presidential election last November.
Several VERIFY viewers asked us whether Trump could pardon himself if he is re-elected president in 2024.
Could Trump pardon himself in the New York case if he is elected president in 2024?
No, if he becomes president again, Donald Trump could not pardon himself of any of the state charges brought in New York. The Constitution only permits presidential pardons for federal crimes.
WHAT WE FOUND
The United States Constitution establishes the power of the president to issue pardons and commutations, which can, to varying degrees, reduce or wipe out the punishments of certain crimes.
Article II, Section 2 reads “The President… shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
The Supreme Court has ruled the president can pardon someone at any time after a crime has been committed, “either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.”
There are only two firmly established limits to how the president can use the pardon.
First, as stated above, it does not apply in “cases of impeachment” – meaning the president could not un-impeach someone, including themselves.
Second, the pardon only extends to “offenses against the United States” – meaning federal crimes. State crimes are considered offenses against that state. Each state has its own process for administering pardons, usually involving the governor and/or some sort of board.
Trump’s recent indictment was for state crimes, brought on behalf of the People of the State of New York. Trump is accused of breaking New York Penal Law § 175.10, falsifying business records in the first degree, 34 times. State law describes this as a class E felony, which is higher than a misdemeanor but lower than all other felony classes in the state. Each count carries a maximum prison term of four years, but convicts with no prior felony record can receive much lighter sentences, such as probation or a fine.
The prosecution is being overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The district attorney is responsible for prosecuting state crimes in Manhattan; federal crimes in that area are prosecuted by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.
There is extensive debate about whether the president could pardon themselves for federal crimes. At this time, Trump has not been indicted on any federal charges; however, he is under investigation in multiple federal cases.