Monica Lewinsky calls for constitutional ban on presidential self-pardons

Monica Lewinsky penned on op-ed Monday calling for a series of constitutional amendments, including age limits for elected officials and a ban on presidential self-pardons.

In a piece in Vanity Fair, Lewinsky offered her vision for a more robust democracy via six new amendments: no presidential self-pardons, mandatory background checks for presidents, no suspensions of the U.S. Constitution, a retirement age for elected officials, elimination of the Electoral College and codification of a woman’s right to an abortion.

In calling for the ban on presidential self-pardons, she did not shy away from invoking former President Trump’s name explicitly, warning of the risk she said he would pose if he were to take back the White House.

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“Our Constitution is not a game of Monopoly. For the head of the executive branch, there should not be a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” she wrote. “In other words, presidents should not be able to pardon themselves.”

“They should not be able to wield the most power of anyone in our country and not be held responsible for illegal or unconstitutional actions while wielding that power. We have a phrase for this already: abuse of power,” she continued.

Lewinsky quoted Georgetown University constitutional law professor Neal Katyal, who she said has noted that Trump, who has been indicted in four separate criminal cases, could theoretically order the Department of Justice to drop charges against him in one of the two federal ones, before the case even gets appealed.

“We wouldn’t even get to the pardon power question,” Katyal said, according to Lewinsky.

Lewinsky concluded: “So, yeah, let’s roll this into whatever adjustments or amendments we devise vis-à-vis pardons and presidents.”

Her piece comes amid an uptick in discussion centered on the 14th Amendment clause that disqualifies anyone from holding public office if they engage in an insurrection or give aid to insurrectionists.

“I began wondering about why the US doesn’t have more safeguards in the Constitution to bulwark its democracy,” Lewinsky wrote. “The fact that Amendment 14 is the only place that addresses the disqualification of a candidate for such behavior is—to use an erudite term—bonkers.”

Legal scholars have also been talking for some years about the question of presidential self-pardons. While there is no official ban on them, experts are divided on whether such a pardon would hold up in court, with critics arguing a self-pardon would undermine the principles of a democratic justice system.

Trump faces a total of 91 criminal charges in four separate indictments, including two cases stemming from his efforts to stay in office after losing the presidential election. He is currently the front-runner in the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential primary, leading by double-digit margins in virtually all national polls.

Without mentioning President Biden by name, Lewinsky also called for unspecified age limits for elected office. At 81, Biden is oldest-serving U.S. president in history; Trump is 77.

“Not to be ageist, but there should also be a retirement age for elected officials as well as term limits, especially when you consider that long-term decisions can impact the citizens, the nation, and the world for years after you’ve served your time in office,” Lewinsky said.

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