President Donald Trump promised concerned subordinates he’d pardon them if they broke the law in order to quickly build more of his promised border wall ahead of the 2020 election, according to a Washington Post report. Sources cited were described as “current and former officials involved with the project.”
A White House official speaking on condition of anonymity said the president was joking.
Taken at face value, such a pardon offer–made to encourage and preemptively cover illegal behavior–would be unconstitutional, say experts.
“In a word, this is lawless,” said CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig in a segment Wednesday morning. “This is lawless for the president of the United States to say, ‘go ahead and break the law, and I’ll take care of you later.'”
He said the pardon power was broad, but only covered past behavior, “looking back.”
Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe, a regular critic of the president, called the offer “impeachable bribery.”
Trump’s offer to pardon lawbreaking aides who seize property illegally to build his wall by Election Day is impeachable bribery. He says it’s a big joke. The joke’s on him. @SpeakerPelosi @RepJerryNadler @RepRaskin https://t.co/eXqx5tbx0K
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) August 28, 2019
The report comes as the lengthy 2020 election season ramps up. The Post report focused on Trump’s insistence of more border fence being built before then–even if it was a less effective anti-immigration maneuver than enhanced deportation-powers and the like–because his failure to do so would be a disappointment to his supporters.
Officials with the Pentagon and U.S. Customs and Border Protection said they were still on schedule to finish 450 miles of border fencing by election day. Most of that is replacement. About 110 miles would cover areas currently untouched by fencing.
The project faced numerous budgetary and logistical issues, in part because the U.S. government doesn’t own all the land. Trump reportedly made the pardon offer when aides suggested that certain orders broke the law or weren’t possible. Contracting, and eminent domain were challenges. “Take the land,” he said according to officials.
[Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]