President Trump's presidential power to pardon anyone for any federal crime has been his get-out-of-jail-free card ever since Robert Mueller's Russia probe investigation began. Just as he has pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, this executive power dangles in front of anyone close to him who might be tempted to cooperate with the investigation out of fear of prosecution.
Mueller is now circumventing the president's reach by taking his investigation to the state level, where the presidential pardon cannot follow.
As per usual for the current president, he has taken to twitter to assert the extent of his power and protection, going so far as to flaunt this "complete power" in numerous tweets.
The power to pardon is granted to the president in the Constitution (Article II, Section 2), which states the commander in chief has the power to "grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." Unfortunately for Trump, this means that while his big stick can potentially nullify any federal criminal prosecution, he cannot pardon anyone prosecuted by any of the 50 states for crimes that occurred within those states.
In other words, no one associated with President Trump, or anyone for that matter, as potential defendants can have legal protection bestowed on them by the president in a state courtroom. "There is nothing about a federal pardon that prevents state offenses from being prosecuted," said P.S. Ruckman Jr., a pardon scholar and author of "Pardon Me, Mr. President."
This is likely why Mueller is teaming up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to collect evidence on both election and financial crimes, which could include potential money laundering. The president has previously mocked Schneiderman on social media, calling him a "hack" and a "lightweight."
Maybe Trump's tune will change now that the New York attorney general is working alongside Mueller. We know so far that the investigation includes Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his financial transactions.
Many consider this development, or clarification, a neutering of Trump's executive power to protect others or himself.
Others mock Trump's inability to contend with Mueller on a judicial level.
No president has yet to try pardoning himself.