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Trump Says Appointment of Special Counsel is ‘Totally Unconstitutional’ 

click to enlarge President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up from the presidential SUV before talking to reporters, and then boarding Air Force One, at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 31, 2018. - DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Doug Mills/The New York Times
  • President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up from the presidential SUV before talking to reporters, and then boarding Air Force One, at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 31, 2018.

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
© 2018 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Monday that the appointment of the special counsel in the Russia investigation is “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” and asserted that he has the power to pardon himself, raising the prospect that he might take extraordinary action to immunize himself from the ongoing probe.

In a pair of early-morning tweets, Trump suggested that he would not have to pardon himself because he had “done nothing wrong.” But he insisted that “numerous legal scholars” have concluded that he has the absolute right to do so, a claim that vastly overstates the legal thinking on the issue.

In fact, many constitutional experts dispute Trump’s position on his pardon power, an issue for which there has been no definitive ruling.

Trump did not elaborate in the tweets about the legal basis for his claim that the appointment of Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia case, was unconstitutional. In that tweet, he insisted that “we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!”

The president’s assertions came in tweets just a day after Rudy Giuliani, one of his lawyers, told HuffPost that Trump is essentially immune from prosecution while in office, and could even have shot the former FBI director without risking indictment while he was president.

Giuliani also said over the weekend that the president “probably” has the power to pardon himself but said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it would be “unthinkable” for him to do so.

Doing so, Giuliani said, would “lead to probably an immediate impeachment,” adding that he “has no need to do that. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Trump’s statement about pardons on Twitter went further than Giuliani and raises the prospect that the president might try to test the limits of his pardon power if Mueller tried to indict him for obstruction of justice in the case. Mueller has indicated he does not plan to seek an indictment, according to Giuliani.

In his tweet, Trump again called the investigation a “never ending Witch Hunt” and said it is being led by “13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats.”
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