Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who's running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, said Sunday he expects that if former President Donald Trump is re-elected and convicted in the classified documents case, he will try to pardon himself.
“I could certainly see Donald Trump doing that. That’s exactly what he would intend if he got elected president. And if [his case] was not brought to trial before then, he’s likely to issue that, as well,” Hutchinson said in an interview on ABC News' “This Week.”
“From a legal standpoint, a constitutional standpoint, that is a question that the courts would have to resolve,” he added. “I’m doubtful of it. I don’t think that’s what the Constitution intends in giving the president the pardon power. But most importantly, it would be inappropriate, unseemly.”
A federal grand jury indicted Trump this month for allegedly misleading federal investigators in his attempt to hold on to a trove of sensitive material that he knew was still classified.
Trump faces 37 counts, including making false statements, conspiracy to obstruct and willful retention of national defense information, stemming from more than 100 classified documents recovered from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last year, according to the indictment.
Trump pleaded not guilty and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. He and his Republican allies have cast his historic indictment as an effort by the Biden administration to undermine his re-election bid.
Hutchinson also took aim at the Republican presidential candidates who have vowed to pardon Trump if elected, and he decried allegations by Trump and his Republican allies that the Justice Department has been “weaponized.”
“In terms of the overall charge, ‘weaponization of the Justice Department’ — look at Donald Trump. He’s already declared that if he’s elected president, he’s going to appoint a special prosecutor to go after the Biden family. That’s called a weaponization of the Justice Department,” Hutchinson said. “And so let’s back off of these accusations.
“Let’s get back to being the party of the rule of law, of the justice system supporting law enforcement and the equal application of the law,” he added.
The charges made Trump, who was impeached twice, the first former president to ever face federal criminal charges. No president has tried to pardon himself under the Constitution, and it’s unclear whether a president can do so.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, a long-shot 2024 candidate, has said he would pardon Trump and urged other Republican candidates to do the same. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley suggested last week that she would, as well.
Two other candidates, former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., dodged when they were asked on Sunday programs whether they would pardon Trump if they win.
“Well, I just think the question is premature,” Pence said in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” noting that he issued pardons for people when he was governor of Indiana.
Asked by NBC News' Chuck Todd what his bar would be for a pardon, Pence demurred and criticized other Republican candidates for presuming Trump will be found guilty.
“I think we need to let the courts do their job and let this case work its way — work its way through our judicial system,” he said. “And if I have the great privilege of being president of the United States, as I did when I was governor, we would evaluate any request for pardon for any American on the same foundation.”
Scott also sidestepped when he was asked whether he would pledge to pardon Trump in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Well, I’m not going to deal with the hypotheticals, but I will say that every American is innocent until proven guilty,” he said.