“Special Counsel In The Russia Investigation Is Totally Unconstitutional”

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Washington: Donald Trump declared on Monday that the appointment of the special counsel in the Russia investigation is “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” and asserted that he has the power to pardon himself, raising the prospect that he might take extraordinary action to immunize himself from the ongoing probe.

In a pair of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump suggested that he would not have to pardon himself because he had “done nothing wrong.” But he insisted that “numerous legal scholars” have concluded that he has the absolute right to do so, a claim that vastly overstates the legal thinking on the issue.

In fact, many constitutional experts dispute Mr. Trump’s position on his pardon power, an issue for which there has been no definitive ruling.

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Mr. Trump did not elaborate in the tweets about the legal basis for his claim that the appointment of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia case, was unconstitutional. In that tweet, he insisted that “we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!”

For many months after Mr. Mueller’s appointment last year, Mr. Trump avoided directly challenging the special counsel. His lawyers at the time argued that the best way to bring the probe to an end was to cooperate fully and avoid public criticism.

But that strategy changed after Mr. Trump overhauled his legal team, and in recent weeks, the president and his new attorneys have become openly dismissive of Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors.

Still, Monday’s tweets by the president went further than before in attempting to undermine the legal basis for the investigation into whether people on Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian meddling during the election, and whether anyone in the administration tried to cover up their activities.

The president’s assertions came in tweets just a day after Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his lawyers, told that Mr. Trump is essentially immune from prosecution while in office, and could even have shot the former F.B.I. director without risking indictment while he was president.

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