Begging the President’s Pardon

Back when President Donald Trump was running against “Crooked” Hillary Clinton he always got big cheers at the rally by promising to “drain the swamp. He’d openly boasted about buying off politicians to benefit his businesses, but people bought the argument that made him an expert on fixing the problem of political corruption.
So far that hasn’t worked out well, with Trump using his office to benefit his still wholly-owned business in various ways, and his reputation as a corruption fighter suffered further on Tuesday when he issued pardons to or commuted the sentences of 11 notorious swamp creatures.
Trump gave a get-out-of-jail-free card to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was about halfway into a 14-year sentence for several several corruption convictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had him on wire-tapped tape profanely stating his intention to sell the Senate seat President Barack Obama had vacated by going to the White House, and he was also caught trying to shake down a children’s cancer hospital for a $50,000 campaign donation in exchange for signing a bill that would have spent millions on pediatric care.
That’s brazenly corrupt abuse of office even by Illinois standards, but Trump said the 14-year sentence “was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion and in the opinion of many others.” We’re not sure who the many others are, but they apparently include Blagojevich’s wife, whose teary pleas on her husband behalf were frequently aired on Fox News. Blagojevich had also been a contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show during his trial, but Trump insists he hardly knows the guy, so surely that as nothing to do with it.
A pardon was also handed to Michael Milken, the “Junk Bond King” who pleaded guilty in 1990 to six felony counts including securities fraud, mail fraud and filing a fraudulent tax return. Milken was considered the villainous exemplar of the “decade of greed” in the ’80s, and was the inspiration for the Gordon Gekko character in the movie “Wall Street” who had the oft-quoted line that “greed is good,” but times have changed. Among those advocating for Milken’s pardon were Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate majority leader and loyal Trump ally Mitch McConnell, deep-pocketed political donor Sheldon Adelson, and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy.
Trump was also merciful to former New York City police chief Bernard Kerik, who served during the mayoralty of Trump lawyer Rudy Guiliani, and was convicted of tax fraud while a partner in Guiliani’s security business, and is now a regular at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Edward DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the National Football League franchise San Francisco ’49ers who pleaded guilty charge of conspiring with the corrupt and eventually convicted Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, was forgiven as well.
The rest of the beneficiaries of Trump’s mercy are people we’ve never previously heard of, but they all seem to have some connection to Trump or his cronies. Trump has also commuted the sentence of an aging black woman who was convicted of a non-violent drug offense, but that was for laundering the money she’d earned from running a multi-million-dollar crack cocaine ring that surely committed some violent offense or other, and she was distantly related to the husband of reality show star Kim Kardashian, who vouched for her character in a White House meeting with Trump.
Which leads many people to conclude that the fewer degrees of separation between a convict and Trump increases the convict’s chances of a presidential pardon. Two of Trump’s erstwhile associates, national security advisor Michael Flynn and longtime friend and advisor Roger Stone, are both awaiting sentencing following their convictions of violating federal law, and former campaign manager Paul Manafort is currently in prison, and all three are probably heartened by Tuesday’s news. In the opinion of many people, including ourselves, this looks awfully swampy.
More frightening is the possibility that Trump doesn’t see anything wrong about what Blagojevich or Milken or Kerik or DeBartolo did. He’d still like to lock up “Crooked” Hillary Clinton for whatever she did, which we vaguely recall had something to do with using non-governmental e-mails and cell phones the same way Trump and his daughter and White House advisor have done, and the rally crowds are chanting “Lock her up” at every mention of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s name, for reasons no one can explain. Abuses of power and paying or taking brides or cheating on tax returns or lying one’s way out of a jam are another matter, as far as Trump is concerned.
The same fervent fans who chanted “Drain the swamp” at the rallies won’t mind. Everyone does it, they’ll tell you.

— Bud Norman</div<

Begging Trump’s Pardon

On a Wednesday full of stories about trade wars and the Environmental Protection Agency director’s latest scandals and the first public sighting of First Lady Melania Trump in several weeks, the item that caught our attention was President Donald Trump releasing 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson from the federal prison where she was serving a life sentence on a drug-dealing rap.
Even the most anti-Trump media tended to describe Johnson as a first-offender convicted on a non-violent drug offense, but the local media who covered her trial and sentencing back in ’97 described her as the leader of a multi-million dollar drug ring that sold tons of cocaine over a three-year period. Given that Trump has touted Singapore’s policy of executing even low-level drug dealers as a model for America, even the pro-Trump “Powerlineblog” had to admit it seemed damned odd.
The best explanation all the media could find is that Johnson’s cause was championed for some unknown reason by Kim Kardashian, one of Trump’s fellow reality television stars, who was granted a widely-publicized White House visit last week to plead Johnson’s case.
That probably did have something to do with it, but we’re sure there’s more to it. Trump has recently issued a posthumous pardon for first black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was convicted of immorality charges while consorting with a white woman, and we suspect that Trump’s commutation of the equally-black Mary Alice Johnson is intended to burnish his otherwise questionable credentials as the least racist person you ever met. He also has reason to be confident that even the most anti-Trump media will describe Johnson as a first-time non-violent drug offender and that most of the pro-Trump media will ignore that he let loose a woman who was duly convicted of running a multi-million dollar drug ring that sold tons of cocaine.
Trump’s most die-hard defenders are noting that even President Barack Obama didn’t commute Johnson’s sentence when he was pardoning hundreds of first-time and non-violent drug crime offenders, but we think the Powerlineblog guys have a better point when they note that even Oaama didn’t let loose the ring leader a multi-million and multi-ton cocaine cartel.
Trump has previously used his presidential powers to pardon Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for flagrantly violating the fourth and ninth and 14th amendments of the Constitution in his law enforcement efforts, and former President George W. Bush appointee “Scooter” Libby for admittedly lying to federal investigators about the long forgotten and no big deal Valerie Plame-gate scandal, as well as a conservative pundit who admittedly violated federal campaign finance laws. He’s pardoning people who have been prosecuted by the same prosecutors who are now prosecuting him, which should hearten the various past Trump campaign and administration officials who have been indicted on various charges and have reason to testify truthfully about Trump in a special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing.” The Trump lawyer that most often appears on television has even asserted that Trump could pardon himself, even if he shot and killed a political adversary.
Any president’s powers to pardon offenders or commute their sentences are broad, but surely there are some limits to the public’s patience.

— Bud Norman