President Trump’s presumptive Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden promised not to use his executive power to pardon his predecessor if he takes his place in the White House.
Mr. Biden, the likely Democratic nominee in November’s race, vowed during a television appearance Thursday evening not to interfere in any investigations brought against Mr. Trump or members of his administration if he runs against him and wins.
The former vice president made the pledge during a virtual town hall televised on MSNBC while responding to a question about whether he would use his executive power like former President Gerald Ford and essentially clear Mr. Trump of any crimes he may have committed.
“Would you be willing to commit to not ‘pulling a President Ford’ and giving Donald Trump a pardon under the pretense of healing the nation?” he was asked during the event. “In other words, are you willing to commit to the American ideal that no one is above the law?”
“Absolutely, yes. I commit,” Mr. Biden responded.
Pressed further by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Mr. Biden asserted he would not “let bygones be bygones” and spare Mr. Trump of his associates of any criminal charges.
“It’s hands-off completely,” Mr. Biden said. “Look, the attorney general of the United States is not the president’s lawyer. It’s the people’s lawyer.”
Ford served as Richard Nixon’s vice president until the latter resigned in August 1974 rather than risk being removed as a result of pending impeachment proceedings brought against him. A fellow Republican, Ford subsequently issued a “full, free and absolute” presidential pardon upon taking office that effectively cleared Nixon of any crimes he committed while in office.
“The facts, as I see them, a former president of the United States, instead of enjoying equal treatment with any other citizen accused of violating the law, would be cruelly and excessively penalized either in preserving the presumption of his innocence or in obtaining a speedy determination of his guilt in order to repay a legal debt to society,” Ford said at the time.
Mr. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted in the Senate. No criminal charges have been announced against him, and long-standing Department of Justice policy states that criminally prosecuting a sitting president “would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
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