'No one is above the law': Paul Ryan says Trump shouldn't pardon himself

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesPaul Ryan.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that President Donald Trump shouldn’t pardon himself.
  • Ryan was responding to Trump’s Monday tweet.
  • Trump claimed to “have the absolute right to PARDON myself” but said he had “done nothing wrong” with regard to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
  • Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani responded Monday to the president’s assertion in an interview with Business Insider, saying the president was “making it clear that he’s not going to” pardon himself.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said in his weekly news conference on Wednesday that President Donald Trump “shouldn’t” pardon himself.

“He shouldn’t and no one is above the law,” the Wisconsin Republican, who is retiring after his current term, told reporters in response to Trump’s Monday tweets suggesting he had the right to issue such a self-pardon.

Trump started an early-morning firestorm on Monday when he claimed to “have the absolute right to PARDON myself” but said he had “done nothing wrong” with regard to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign’s possible participation in that. The president insisted that “numerous legal scholars” agreed with his position, though the legal thinking on the issue is mixed at best.

No court has ruled on whether a president can pardon himself, though the Department of Justice wrote in a 1974 opinion,days before former President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace, that the president “cannot pardon himself.”

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani responded Monday to the president’s assertion in an interview with Business Insider, saying the president was “making it clear that he’s not going to” pardon himself.

“He doesn’t have to do it, because he’s done nothing wrong,” Giuliani said. “If you just look at the Constitution, it says the president can pardon, and there are not words of limitation. Somebody could probably argue that there is a limitation, but it hasn’t been decided by the court.”

On Sunday, Giuliani said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it would be “unthinkable” for Trump to pardon himself – but that it was something the president could “probably” do – because it would almost certainly lead to impeachment proceedings in Congress.

A number of prominent Republicans had responded to Trump’s claim prior to Ryan.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider that Trump’s opinion “may be right from a strictly legal standpoint, but I don’t think it’s helpful in terms of the conclusion of the investigation.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, told CNN, “If I were president of the United States and I had a lawyer that said I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer.”

And Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters that he would “advise everybody from the president to the people operating the elevator: don’t obstruct justice.”

“Politically it would be a disaster,” Graham said. “Legally, I don’t know.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, declined to comment on the matter when asked on Tuesday.

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