President Trump keeps pardoning his political friends

The last three US Presidents -- Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- each waited more than two years afte...

Posted: May 31, 2018 5:27 PM
Updated: May 31, 2018 5:27 PM

The last three US Presidents -- Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- each waited more than two years after being elected to issue their first pardon. Trump has engaged his power four times already, was publicly lobbied for another one by Kim Kardashian West, of all people, on Wednesday, and made the surprise announcement of a fifth Thursday before teasing he might commute the sentence of imprisoned former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and pardon Martha Stewart.

Seriously. This is happening.

Relishing the power to clean people's slates, Trump seems like he wants to undo years of high-profile prosecutions of his political friends -- all with a message. He's trolling with each one of these possible moves.

Trump said on Twitter he'd pardon the conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud in 2014.

Later on Air Force One, he teased to reporters the idea of clemencies for Blagojevich, who was convicted for trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, and Stewart, who was prosecuted for lying about insider trading by Trump nemesis James Comey. Blagojevich and Scooter Libby, who was already pardoned by Trump, were both prosecuted by former US attorney and special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who is now one of Comey's lawyers.

Blagojevich, by the way, appeared on Trump's TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice," before going to jail. And Stewart once hosted a spinoff of "The Apprentice" after she got out of jail.

The reason for the D'Souza pardon, which the President squeezed into his tweet, is that D'Souza was "unfairly treated by our government."

And despite the fact that he leads the government, Trump has complained that the government treats him unfairly, too.

The remarkable thing about Trump's pardons is that most of them have been extremely political and either sent political messages or settled political scores. The President is handing these things out like political party favors.

And he really likes to do it! The lawyer for pardoned former Bush administration official Scooter Libby said doling out pardons gives Trump a "thrill."

Some have argued he's sending a message to former aides pressured by prosecution to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller that he'll make things OK for them down the road. That may be, although Trump was once asked about it by a reporter and he called it a "stupid, stupid question." But there's no denying Trump's the political nature of Trump's pardons.

Here's the evidence:

Political Pardon 1: Joe Arpaio, controversial sheriff, immigration hardliner, birther

Trump rewarded a political backer and criticized the justice system as making a mistake when he pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in August, sparing his longtime supporter a jail sentence for criminal contempt during Arpaio's time in office. Arpaio's specific crime was ignoring a court order to stop profiling Latinos. Trump, it should be said, has openly complained about the constrictions the courts have placed on his own immigration plans.

Trump didn't consult his Department of Justice on the pardon but rather made the move on his own and teased it during a rally in Phoenix a week earlier.

"So was Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job?" Trump asked rallygoers.

In addition to being a Trump supporter, Arpaio was also known for promoting the conspiracy theory Trump stoked about Obama's birth certificate.

Political Pardon 2: Kristian Saucier, Navy submariner who used so-called 'Clinton defense'

Trump spent much of 2016 saying Hillary Clinton should be in jail, but he gave Kristian Saucier a free pass.

Before the election, Saucier, after he pleaded guilty, argued in court that photos of a classified submarine propulsion system found on his phone were not unlike the emails that landed Clinton in hot water but did not result in a criminal charge against her. A judge rejected Saucier's argument. But it must have been thrilling for Trump to pardon him, too. Trump has specifically used the case of Saucier, as recently as January, to call on his own Justice Department to go after Clinton.

Political Pardon 3: Scooter Libby, leaker of CIA agent's identity, rebuffed by a Bush

Bush notably didn't pardon Libby, but rather commuted the sentence of the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Libby was convicted of lying to a special counsel, not completely unlike the one now investigating possible collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russians.

It's hard to pluck a specific message out of that irony, since Libby's larger crime was his connection to the controversy surrounding the leaking of the name of an undercover CIA agent.

What might have further thrilled Trump about pardoning Libby is that he did it just days before James Comey's book was released -- the former FBI director was the man who authorized the special counsel in that case.

Political Pardon 4: Dinesh D'Souza, conservative who was 'treated unfairly'

As CNN wrote in 2014, D'Souza, who is now a vocal Trump supporter, admitted to exceeding donor limits in 2012 by arranging for others to give to the New York Senate campaign of Wendy Long. He also admitted to making false statements about those donations. He was prosecuted by the then-US Attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump in 2017. Announcing the pardon on Twitter, Trump said, "Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D'Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!"

Trump is using the power differently

Beyond breaking the seal on the pardon power much earlier in his presidency, publicly teasing them before carrying through, and so far using them for very political ends, Trump's pardons are also different because they have occurred one at a time.

You can see recent pardons and commutations on the DOJ's website. Previous recent presidents have pardoned in batches, after recommendations from the Justice Department. Trump's are announced individually -- and for effect -- as he did in a photo op with Sylvester Stallone to posthumously pardon the boxer Jack Johnson. Trump argued he was righting a wrong and he took a swing at Obama for not doing it earlier.

Political pardons are nothing new. Obama used his power to pardon and more often undo harsh sentences, particularly for drug crimes, which have unduly affected African-Americans.

Others, like President Gerald Ford's pre-emptive pardon of Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton's still unbelievable pardon of Marc Rich, the wealthy former husband of his political benefactor, rightly cause an uproar.

But they feel different than the almost routine way Trump has used the power -- as if to make a political point.

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 62°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 62°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 61°
Decatur
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 61°
Fort Payne
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 62°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 443009

Reported Deaths: 6662
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson649101007
Mobile31746574
Madison28413217
Tuscaloosa21566275
Montgomery20088332
Shelby19452132
Baldwin17333189
Lee13261107
Morgan12678142
Etowah12141181
Calhoun11555206
Marshall10487123
Houston9031164
Limestone838181
Cullman8296124
Elmore8243110
Lauderdale7946107
DeKalb7900107
St. Clair7876130
Talladega6523112
Walker6050183
Jackson603245
Colbert558194
Blount548586
Autauga540762
Coffee466964
Dale412785
Franklin377550
Russell358415
Chilton346873
Covington340880
Escambia339244
Tallapoosa3163109
Dallas313696
Chambers305470
Clarke303336
Pike265231
Lawrence255855
Marion254661
Winston234742
Bibb222948
Geneva213047
Marengo210531
Pickens200431
Hale186144
Barbour183438
Fayette178829
Butler174860
Cherokee166031
Henry160025
Monroe152621
Randolph146636
Washington142727
Clay130746
Crenshaw124845
Macon122837
Cleburne122125
Lamar120622
Lowndes116836
Wilcox108322
Bullock104628
Perry100518
Conecuh98022
Sumter90627
Greene77923
Coosa64018
Choctaw52124
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 710427

Reported Deaths: 8970
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby790251186
Davidson73248697
Knox40335452
Hamilton35983347
Rutherford34271298
Unassigned23946140
Williamson22259150
Sumner18862237
Out of TN1644883
Montgomery15200153
Wilson14878167
Sullivan13002221
Blount12382136
Washington12206206
Maury11337131
Bradley11263101
Sevier10877123
Putnam10200152
Madison9364186
Robertson793088
Hamblen7261119
Anderson7031116
Greene6779117
Tipton639571
Coffee578584
Gibson5767117
Dickson559082
Cumberland556777
Bedford546092
Roane536083
McMinn524674
Lawrence524369
Carter5215121
Warren511656
Loudon510352
Jefferson497078
Dyer487487
Monroe471964
Hawkins461473
Franklin426067
Fayette415953
Obion406683
Rhea391858
Lincoln388347
Cocke359063
Marshall358140
Cheatham350332
Weakley345948
Campbell338742
Henderson338659
Giles334476
Carroll318362
White317749
Hardeman315854
Hardin306650
Lauderdale299934
Macon294751
Wayne270325
Henry269960
Overton260546
McNairy249042
DeKalb247443
Haywood245650
Marion236233
Smith235430
Trousdale230617
Scott230432
Claiborne230033
Hickman229836
Fentress217835
Grainger217240
Johnson205335
Morgan196616
Crockett183738
Chester179039
Bledsoe178211
Unicoi170147
Cannon161721
Lake158522
Polk150517
Decatur149027
Union145725
Grundy143622
Sequatchie142120
Humphreys137717
Benton134135
Lewis131121
Meigs119216
Stewart112220
Jackson106624
Clay96526
Perry96325
Houston95226
Moore8319
Pickett69220
Van Buren6758
Hancock4227

Community Events