CNN anchor Jim Acosta recently delved into the historical context of presidential immunity by referencing former President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon.
This discussion came in light of former President Trump’s claim of total immunity from prosecution for his actions while in office.
The Pardon Paradox
During a segment, Acosta posed a thought-provoking question to his guest, former White House ethics head Norm Eisen.
He inquired, “If presidents have absolute immunity, I suppose, why did Ford ever pardon Nixon? How is it they can just argue they have absolute immunity?”
This question underscores the ongoing debate regarding the extent of presidential immunity.
Eisen’s Response: A Warning Against Absolute Immunity
Eisen described Trump’s claim as an “astonishing proposition,” warning of its far-reaching implications.
He emphasized that accepting such an argument could lead to presidents engaging in a variety of crimes without repercussions.
“If presidents had absolute immunity, Jim, presidential elections would become a stampede for the criminally minded so they can get to the Oval Office,” Eisen expressed.
“It’s not just election overturned. Where would it stop? They could do bank robberies, kidnappings, and murders. That is inimical to American law.”
Trump’s Legal Battle and Plea for Immunity
Trump, facing four felony counts related to efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
However, he simultaneously argues for total immunity for actions taken during his presidency.
This plea for immunity has been dismissed by Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, though Trump has appealed the decision.
Supreme Court’s Position and Eisen’s Analysis
Special counsel Jack Smith sought the Supreme Court’s intervention on Trump’s immunity claim to expedite the trial set for March, but the court has refrained from involvement for the time being.
Eisen remarked that there is “no hint” of any absolute immunity in the Constitution, historical records, or court precedents.
He speculated that Nixon would have never resigned if Trump’s argument held any truth, as Nixon would have used such immunity for self-protection.
Ford’s Pardon of Nixon: A Historical Context
Ford’s decision to pardon Nixon post-Watergate scandal for any crimes committed while in office stands in stark contrast to Trump’s current defense strategy.
Eisen sees Trump’s argument as a tactic to “run out the clock” on the criminal cases against him, especially with the 2024 presidential election looming.