“Not even for my family? Or preemptive pardons for myself?”
You know… just in case?
Questions raised repeatedly by President Trump over the past 3+ years.
Evidently these questions have been on his mind for quite awhile.
Quoted to CNN during interviews with current and former administration officials, since 2017 these questions have repeatedly been floated by the current President of the US.
Specifically, the President has allegedly questioned those around him whether they think he can legally pardon himself since he was elected.
In 2018 he publicly stated he actually believes he has “the absolute right to pardon himself”. What crime is he worried about?
One’s first thought should be … “hmmm … why would you need to ask?”
And now, the questions have been expanded to include whether he can pardon members of his family including children and in-laws, according to reports from several members of his staff.
Again… things that make you go “hmmm”. It would seem that with the end of this election, the really interesting stuff is yet to come.
Why? Because evidently our President is worried about something. Or many things.
The Law, Clemency, and The President
An individual may only be pardoned or commuted from a federal crimes, after sentencing. Not before, not during and not unless it’s a federal crime.
“Section II of Article II of the Constitution says the president has the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States. It does not mention commutations specifically, but they come under the pardon power.”
(Christopher Schroeder, Duke University law and public policy professor)
For example, the President’s friend and former attorney Roger Stone who was convicted of multiple felonies under federal law, was granted clemency (not a pardon). His convictions remain on record.
Roger Stone, is one of only 39 (this may change) to be granted clemency under President Trump. A minimum of 180 have been denied. Another 35,000+ have been ignored. For years.
Roger Stone’s clemency was different though.
Called as a witness against the President, he refused to speak against him. He bragged after doing so, that he felt secure knowing his loyalty would be repaid by the President. Not shockingly, it was of course.
What’s the difference between a pardon and clemency ?
A “pardon wipes out the conviction while a commutation leaves the conviction intact but wipes out the punishment.” (Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law)
Legally, it is believed a President can not pardon himself, preemptively or otherwise. This is based upon an opinion by the DOJ in 1974 relative to then President Nixon.
Of course, this has never been tried… yet. Most Constitutional scholars believe it to be unconstitutional.
Criminal investigations of the President currently underway at the behest of the NYS Attorney General are not federal crimes so are not involved.
Are You Connected? Well… I Guess I Am…
(sung to the tune “Are You Experienced” — Jimi Hendrix)
President Trump has commuted the sentences of 11 people and pardoned sentences of 28 people. In doing so he has by-passed the process used by all past Presidents.
He has also ignored over 35,000 applications for clemency, favoring instead friends, or those who financially supported his campaign, or a few who were recommended by famous and wealthy which he turned into marketing options.
All 11 of these criminals who had sentences commuted had an inside connection to the White House and President Trump and/or were championed by Fox News.
- They raised funds for his campaign
- They were large financial donors (up to $10 million)
- They were family friends
- They were promoted by the rich and famous (Kardashions)
- They are vastly wealthy, white collar felons.
Members of his administration refer to President Trumps method of pardons and communications as the “Friends & Family Method”.
That said, the legal system is antiquated. It is unmistankenly broken. One person, Mrs. Johnson, commuted by President Trump was in prison for over two decades for a marijuana charge. Her connection to the President was through Kim Kardashian.
In turn, Mrs. Johnson sought the release of 10 others. Three of them were commuted. Mrs. Johnson was then used as the face of a pro-Trump television advertisement during the Super Bowl two years ago.
Before the end of his term, which rapidly draws to a close, I believe we will see President Trump pardoning or commuting the sentences of Flynn, as well as George Papadopoulos, another former campaign aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
These would subscribe to President Trumps history of helping only those who help him. Every President has helped those with a political motivation, but they have been a small percentage of the total. In President Trumps case, they are the total.
Recent Presidential totals for clemency (commutations and pardons) in the recent past:
- Ronald Reagan: 406
- Bush Sr.: 77
- Clinton: 457
- Bush Jr.: 200
- Obama: 2,927
- Trump: 39
The full list of those under President Trump, to date, as published by the Dept. of Justice, and their crimes, are found here: https://www.justice.gov/pardon/pardons-granted-president-donald-trump
Details, Details, Details
I must note, in researching this issue I discovered a constant and consistent problem. Story after story it seems, in all media, whether Fox News or The NY Times or CNN… all sources failed to understand the difference between commutations and pardons, using the terms interchangeably.
This has become the new normal under today’s journalists. Little attention is paid to such “minor details”, yet there is a tremendous difference between commute and pardon.
Details, details… we don’t need no stinkin’ details, say today’s Press.
Well… here’s one. The government uses the term clemency for both.
One other little detail. The pattern of rule under President Trump.
Whether granting clemency or tax breaks, everything he has done has been weighted to favor his wealthy friends, the famous, and those who have been his financial supporters.