United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he’s ready to assume the presidency once President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are removed from office for obstruction of justice but that it won’t be necessary to pardon the two because Trump has already signed the pardons.
“Once Special Counsel Robert Mueller files his charges against the president for firing the former FBI director and then lying about why it was done, and the vice president is charged with knowing that information and yet publicly giving other reasons for it, I am constitutionally in line to assume the presidency,” Tillerson said in a briefing today. “I will make it my priority to bring together all Americans after what will be a traumatic and fraught time. That is why I’m prepared to pardon the president and vice president but glad that it won’t be necessary because the pardons are already signed by the president.”
Tillerson said he expects the pre-pardons to hold up in Court because the president has unabridged power to pardon and President Trump has exercised that power. “There are no rules against the president being one of the persons the president pardons,” Tillerson said. “Maybe there should be, but no one ever expected a president to do that. Be that as it may, his pardon of himself should stand, and certainly his pardon of the vice president should stand as well.”
Tillerson said he expects to be president soon after Special Counsel Mueller files his report to Congress because Trump’s attempt to lie about why he fired FBI Director James Comey is a textbook case of obstruction of justice. “The special counsel has the original draft of the memo that sets out why the FBI director was being fired,” he said. “That memo is unequivocal that the firing is over his refusal to end the investigation into Russian collusion. The official justification that was released, set forth in the memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was written solely to provide cover to the president. The special counsel has everything he needs to prove that. As we say in Texas, he’s screwed.”
Tillerson said the special counsel also has conclusive proof Trump personally intervened in how his son, Donald Trump, Jr., characterized his meeting with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The indisputable reason, as documents show and as Trump, Jr., said in testimony before Congress, was Russian help in attacking Clinton. But Trump himself changed the explanation to say it involved U.S. policy on adoptions of Russian children. “That’s also a textbook case of obstruction,” he said.
Once he assumes the presidency, Tillerson said, he will focus on healing the nation by making clear the United States does not condone the white supremacist agenda and will also take a more welcoming posture toward immigrants. He also said Trump’s pre-pardon of himself and Pence will go a long way to healing the nation, because it would have been divisive had he been the one to do it.
“A lot of people would have been mad at me, even calling for my removal,” he said, “which would just add to the divisiveness. So, I thank the president for doing it ahead of time. I think it was far-sighted of him—certainly more far-sighted than other things he’s done.”
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