Jeanette Strong: Corruption, unlimited
“Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“No, that would be a crime,” Attorney General nominee William Barr. (Senate Judiciary Committee, Jan. 15, 2019)
President Donald Trump is concluding his administration with a flood of corruption perhaps unparalleled in American history. He’s pardoning convicted felons, including mass murderers, and cheapening justice in ways which would have appalled the founders.
Pardon power is granted to the president in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution. This power is extensive, but not absolute. For example, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution says, “A pardon … cannot, however, be granted before an offense has been committed, which would give the president the power to waive the laws.”
Many people believe Trump is planning to pre-emptively pardon his children and, ultimately, himself. By doing so, he’d admit he and his family have committed crimes; he’d be putting himself above the law.
Following are a few of the convicted criminals Trump has pardoned. All of them pled “Guilty” or were convicted in fair trials. The information on pardons comes from the Washington Post, Dec. 23, and HuffPost, Dec. 24.
Michael Flynn: On Dec. 2, 2017, Trump tweeted about his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.”
Flynn pled guilty twice, in writing and before a judge. Trump apparently decided lying to the FBI was OK. He pardoned Flynn in November.
Paul Manafort: Manafort, former campaign chairman for Trump, was convicted in 2018 of financial fraud and obstruction of justice. Manafort declined to testify against Trump. Trump called him a “brave man” for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors. Manafort’s pardon in December fits the definition of a pardon “in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate” Trump.
Charles Kushner: Kushner is the father of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and trusted White House aide. In 2004, Charles Kushner pled guilty to witness tampering and tax evasion, among other crimes. The federal prosecutor was Chris Christie. Kushner served 14 months in federal prison.
To avoid prosecution, Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law. He filmed the encounter, using it to intimidate his sister from testifying against him. Christie called it “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was U.S. attorney.” Trump decided that this “loathsome, disgusting” crime was fine. He pardoned Kushner in December.
Duncan and Margaret Hunter: Duncan Hunter was a Republican member of the House of Representatives. He pled guilty in 2019 to misusing campaign funds, spending the money on family vacations and extramarital affairs. He faced a federal prison sentence. Trump, apparently approving of this cheating, pardoned Hunter.
Margaret, Duncan’s wife, also pled guilty in 2019 to conspiracy to steal campaign funds. She spent the money on home improvements and flights for their pet bunny. Trump pardoned her.
Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard: These pardons created the most outrage worldwide. These men worked for the Blackwater security company in Iraq. On Sept. 16, 2007, they got caught in a traffic jam in Baghdad. They started shooting civilians who were also stuck in traffic, killing 17 civilians, including a nine-year-old boy, and wounding 20.
In 2014, after years of meticulous investigation, the men were tried and convicted in a U.S. federal court. Slatten was sentenced to life in prison. The other three received sentences from 12 to 15 years. In December, Trump pardoned these war criminals. His callousness to the victims of the massacre stunned the world.
“Trump granted 45 pardons or commutations before (Dec. 22), 88% of which went to people with personal ties to the president or people who advanced his political goals…
“The pardons continue Trump’s unprecedented pattern of issuing self-serving pardons and commutations that advance his personal interests, reward friends, seek retribution against enemies, or gratify political constituencies.” (Salon, Dec. 23)
Some of these pardons may themselves be illegal, since a pardon can’t be granted as a “quid pro quo,” as Barr testified. They add to the many crimes for which Trump is already under investigation.
Trump claims to believe in law-and-order. His pardons of unrepentant felons show his contempt for the law. His refusal to intervene during the recent insurrection at the Capitol proves his contempt for the U.S. Constitution. His corruption is unlimited.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.