Could Trump pardon himself if he wins in November?

Donald Trump has made history once again by becoming the first US president ever convicted of a crime.

On Thursday, a jury found the former president guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection to a hush money payment to a porn star.

Stormy Daniels alleged that she had an affair with Trump in 2006, something the former president has denied outright. Even so, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Daniels received a $130,000 payment from Trump’s then-fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen.

Cohen was later reimbursed for the payment — reimbursements that were fraudulently logged as legal expenses.

A jury of 12 New Yorkers has now found that Trump falsified those business records as part of a plot to interfere with the election by hiding negative information about himself from voters.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial,” Trump raged outside the courtroom on Thursday.

“The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people, and they know what happened here,” he added, referencing the 2024 presidential election.

“I’m a very innocent man,” he said.

Trump is set to be sentenced on 11 July at 10am.

So now it comes down to this: a convicted felon could become the next president of the US, and could even wind up running the country from prison.

But can Trump pardon himself if he wins in November?

Donald Trump leaves criminal courtroom after he was convicted on all felony counts of falsifying business records in New York on May 30 (AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump leaves criminal courtroom after he was convicted on all felony counts of falsifying business records in New York on May 30 (AFP/Getty Images)

From a legal standpoint, if he becomes president, Trump could pardon himself for any federal convictions.

But he could not pardon himself for any convictions on the state level, such as his conviction in New York.

“The state and federal systems in the United States are completely separate,” Steve Duffy, a jury consultant at Trial Behavior Consulting, told The Independent prior to the verdict.

“The only person who could pardon him would be the governor of New York – who is exceedingly unlikely to do that,” he added, in reference to Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat.

Attorney Duncan Levin, who worked at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office years before the case against Trump, echoed this: “This is a case brought by New York state and is not subject to a federal pardon. The president of the United States can pardon on federal cases, but not on state cases – he would have no ability to pardon himself by law.”

That said, Levin told The Independent that Trump would be able to pardon himself if he is convicted in his federal cases.

The former president is currently facing two federal cases: one in Washington, DC over attempts to overturn the 2020 election and one in Florida over his alleged mishandling of classified documents since leaving the White House in January 2021. He is also facing state charges in Georgia in connection to his efforts to overturn the 2020 results in that state.

It’s unlikely any of these three cases will actually make it to trial before the November election.

But should Trump take back the White House and pardon himself in the federal cases, it would mark yet another unprecedented moment in American history.

“​​It’s never happened before the former president has ever faced a criminal trial,” Levin said. “It’s never happened that a felon is elected president of the United States. None of that has ever happened before. It’s without any precedents whatsoever.”

If Trump tries to pardon himself, Levin predicted it would end up in a legal battle escalated to the US Supreme Court.

Of course, Trump has toyed with pardoning himself in the past.

Last September, he said he had discussed the possibility of pardoning himself at the end of his last term – but ultimately decided against it.

“I could’ve pardoned myself. Do you know what? I was given an option to pardon myself. I could’ve pardoned myself when I left,” he told NBC News.

“People said, ‘Would you like to pardon yourself?’ I had a couple of attorneys that said, ‘You could do it if you want.’ I had some people that said, ‘It would look bad if you do it, because I think it would look terrible.’”

“I said, ‘The last thing I’d ever do is give myself a pardon,’” he claimed.

Asked if he would pardon himself if he wins in the fall, he said: “I think it’s very unlikely. What, what did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong. You mean because I challenge an election, they want to put me in jail?”