AP Poll: 85% Think Presidents Shouldn’t Pardon Themselves

US President Donald Trump speaks during a dinner with US state governors to discuss border security in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, DC, May 21, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit... US President Donald Trump speaks during a dinner with US state governors to discuss border security in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, DC, May 21, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

NEW YORK (AP) — Even in an era of deep political division, Democrats and Republicans agree presidents should not pardon themselves. And if the nation’s chief executive ever does so, majorities of Americans in both parties believe Congress should impeach that president.

Those are the findings of a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which comes as federal authorities continue their months-long criminal investigation into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election and the actions of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Graphic shows results of AP-NORC Center poll on attitudes toward presidential self-pardons; 2c x 5 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 139 mm;

Already, prosecutors have charged four Trump campaign associates — including the one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — with felonies as part of the probe, and special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the Republican president directly.

Trump raised the possibility of a self-pardon on Twitter earlier in this month, writing: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

By a wide margin, Americans believe Trump is wrong: 85 percent think it would be unacceptable for presidents to pardon themselves if charged with a crime, and 76 percent think Congress should take steps to remove a president from office if they did so.

The survey did not ask about Trump by name, but several poll respondents in follow-up interviews — including some strong Trump supporters — said their feelings would not change when applied to the current president.

“Pardon himself? You might as well cash in your chips and leave office,” said Bruce Novak, a retiree from Davie, Florida, who otherwise praised Trump’s job performance and vowed to vote for him again in 2020. “It’s not at all acceptable. I don’t care who you are.”

Recent AP-NORC surveys have found strong splits in opinion by party on issues related to Trump and his policies. While eight in 10 Republicans approve of the job he’s doing as president, for example, only one out of every 10 Democrats says the same.

But there’s little such disagreement on the question of pardons. Three-quarters of Republicans say a president should not self-pardon if charged with a crime, while 56 percent say Congress should impeach a president who did so. More than 9 in 10 Democrats agree.

Brynn Alexander, a 34-year-old registered Republican who lives in Fort Mitchell, Alabama, railed against what she called bias among Mueller’s investigators. “They really hate this guy,” Alexander said, referring to Trump. But, she added, “I don’t think he should pardon himself. It looks bad.”

If he did so, Alexander is among the minority of Americans who don’t believe that should lead Congress to take immediate action. “I don’t think they should automatically remove him. He’s doing so much good for the country,” said Alexander, a stay-at-home mother of three whose husband is an active duty soldier in the Army.

“Maybe he did do something wrong, but because there’s so much bias, it’s hard to say,” she said.

One of the most sweeping powers granted to a president, pardons are outlined in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which says the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Trump has issued several high profile pardons since taking office, including to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing for contempt of court, and a U.S. Navy sailor convicted of taking photos of classified portions of a submarine. In May, he issued a rare posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, clearing boxing’s first black heavyweight champion more than 100 years after what many believe was a racist conviction.

In April, Trump also pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, who Trump said had been “treated unfairly” during an investigation carried out by a special counsel.

Despite Trump’s declaration on social media that he could pardon himself, it’s not clear the Constitution grants him that authority and that question has never been tested in the courts. Trump’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has argued that a president “probably does” have the power to pardon himself — but he also insists Trump would never do so.

“Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment,” Giuliani told NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier this month.

On that point, James Baker agrees. The 76-year-old Republican from the northern Chicago suburbs has been pleasantly surprised by Trump’s job performance. But he says the Constitution doesn’t go so far as to allow a president to use the power of the pardon as a get out of jail free card.

“If it ever did get to that point and he’s convicted of crimes — it has to be pretty serious to get to that point — then that should stand,” said Baker, a self-described history buff. “I don’t think anybody should ever have the power to pardon himself.

“No one’s above the law,” Baker added. “Not even the president.”


AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson reported from Washington.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,109 adults was conducted June 13-18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.

Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. Only 85%??

    Who the fuck are the 15% that still believe this might be a good idea?

    Seems we fought a Revolutionary War to get away from that kind of monarchist rule.

  2. I realize this is an AP article, but I’m so fucking tired of the media constantly interviewing these racist, deplorable pieces of shit and pretending they’re human or that they somehow represent the majority of Americans. The majority is being held hostage by these vile, noxious morons. They’ve been given a deference that was never once afforded to the Obama coalition. Gee, I wonder why?

  3. Of course, a good chunk of reactionaries will say charging this president with a crime is beyond the pale so pardons would be unnecessary.

  4. The idiots who want to leave Donnie the option.

  5. “I don’t think they should automatically remove him. He’s doing so much good for the country,” said Alexander.

    On what planet and in what universe could any rational, thinking person make a comment so mind-boggling in its sheer stupidity? Of course we are not talking about rational, thinking people, are we?

    Alexander went on to say “Maybe he did do something wrong, but because there’s so much bias, it’s hard to say.”

    And with that statement a million irony meters exploded into oblivion. Bias against Trump? But there was no bias during the previous eight years? No one calling President Obama a terrorist, secret muslim, Kenyan, commie socialist sympathizer? Come now, Trump is an actual crazy person who’s doing NOTHING of any value but hurting all he can as much as he can, but there’s bias against the poor guy? Screw these idiots. Deplorable is not even close to being a strong enough word to describe them.

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

32 more replies


Avatar for system1 Avatar for sandi Avatar for pluckyinky Avatar for daveminnj Avatar for srfromgr Avatar for old_curmudgeon Avatar for adabsurdum Avatar for teenlaqueefa Avatar for jimtoday Avatar for Lacuna-Synecdoche Avatar for chelsea530 Avatar for phillydave Avatar for geofu54 Avatar for darrtown Avatar for tena Avatar for jinnj Avatar for established_1781 Avatar for thecaptain Avatar for doug834 Avatar for boisdevache Avatar for cacox Avatar for erik_t Avatar for ohcomeonnow Avatar for angrychickadee

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: