A former White House attorney for Donald Trump described a bizarre possible scenario in which the former president wins next year’s election but is imprisoned by Inauguration Day, then pardons himself while in prison.
Ty Cobb, who led the White House response to the Russia investigation from 2017 to 2018, told CNN‘s Erin Burnett that Trump “will go to jail” as a result of the classified documents investigation.
Burnett wondered what would happen if the trial occurred during the election and Trump still won, according to HuffPost reports.
“Does he just pardon himself and it all goes away?” she asked. Cobb said that’s a possibility. “The sad thing is nobody knows,” he said. “This is so unprecedented.”
Cobb mentioned a legal debate about whether presidents have the authority to pardon themselves. “There are good lawyers on both sides of that. I tend to believe he doesn’t, but I could be wrong,” he said.
He went on to say that a possible trial next year could end during or after the election, with Trump sentenced and imprisoned before Inauguration Day.
“He doesn’t have the power to pardon himself until he’s actually inaugurated,” he noted, meaning Trump “would have to report to jail” until then in any case.
In addition to the possibility of federal charges, Trump faces nearly three dozen state-level felony charges in New York, with a trial scheduled to begin in March, in the midst of the primary season. If he loses that case, he will be unable to pardon himself on the basis of the state conviction.