President Donald Trump has announced he may pardon the late boxer Muhammad Ali, who was convicted in 1967 for refusing to report for induction into the United States military during the Vietnam War.
He's the latest on the president's pardon list. But can Trump really pardon anyone he wants? Yes, because real check on the pardon power is political, says Brian Kalt, a professor at MSU's College of Law.
"The pardon power suits Trump’s style perfectly," Kalt says. "The president pardons alone — Congress is not involved and the courts have almost no power to review the president’s choices. With the stroke of his pardon pen, Trump can make things happen immediately. He can spring people from prison or protect them from prosecutors (contrary to a common misconception, the president can pardon people before they have been convicted or even charged). It is the closest a president can get to being a king, or a wizard with a magic wand."
Kalt wrote the seminal article on self-pardons in 1996, and it occupies a chapter of his 2012 book, "Constitutional Cliffhangers," has been used hundreds of times by media and researchers. See his book here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13386546-constitutional-cliffhangers.
Brian Kalt Professor of Law & Harold Norris Faculty Scholar
Expert in constitutional law of the presidency, presidential pardons, impeachment, succession and the 25th Amendment.