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Old June 1st, 2018, 01:34 PM   #1
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Trumpís pardons show his twisted brand of mercy

Trumpís pardons show his twisted brand of mercy

If, as is often said, a presidentís budget proposal presents a glimpse of his heart, a presidentís use of his pardon power offers a companion, and even more telling, X-ray of his soul.

Writing a budget involves making trade-offs and priorities, but these must be examined and ratified by others, elsewhere. The power to pardon is more uniquely personal, both in that pardons tend to be granted to individuals, based on the circumstances of their particular cases, and in that it is an authority that resides solely within the purview of the president.

What, then, does President Trumpís suite of pardons ó five over the course of his still-young presidency ó tell us? Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama each took about two years to dispense their first pardons. Trump, by contrast, has embraced his role as what Alexander Hamilton described as the ďdispenser of the mercy of government.Ē

Except that Trumpís twisted brand of mercy is shaping up as a particularly ugly version of that lofty Hamiltonian vision, variously self-serving in its recipients, tactical in its application and willfully dismissive of the countervailing considerations that a responsible president would take into account before intervening in the ordinary criminal process.

And so Thursdayís move to pardon conservative author and admitted felon Dinesh DíSouza was repulsive but not out of character. The quality of Trumpís mercy skews in a decidedly partisan direction. See also former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and, although this pardon is more justifiable, former Dick Cheney aide Lewis ďScooterĒ Libby.

To secure a Trump pardon, it helps to be a live Republican, a dead black man whose cause has been taken up by a white celebrity (boxer Jack Johnson, courtesy of Sylvester Stallone), or an ordinary schmo whose offense (mishandling of classified information) happened to look a lot like that of a certain political opponent who Trump thinks should have been locked up.

Or, as Trump hinted Thursday in discussing a pardon for Martha Stewart and a sentence commutation for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, a former contestant on his ďApprenticeĒ show.

Certainly, Trump is not the first president to use the pardon power in distasteful ways. Clintonís last-day-in-office pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, following extensive political and charitable contributions to Clinton interests by Richís ex-wife, is a pungent example.

Yet there is something particularly wrong, particularly askew, in Trumpís pardoning. Partly it is his sloppy impulsivity, without going through the ordinary process of consideration by the Justice Department or satisfying the usual criteria (a five-year waiting period after serving a sentence; ďacceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonementĒ for the offense).

But even more it is the disdain in which Trump holds the legal process ó a disdain whose public expression in the form of pardons helps reinforce Trumpís case of a criminal-justice system that is rigged, unfair and unworthy of respect. Trumpís pardon of Arpaio for his criminal contempt for disobeying a court order to halt racial profiling underscored the presidentís contempt for the judiciary.

The DíSouza pardon makes Trumpís point even more explicitly. ďHe was treated very unfairly by our government,Ē Trump tweeted of DíSouza. Unfairly?

This is a man who pleaded guilty to deliberately violating campaign contribution limits on behalf of a friend running for a Senate seat from New York, using straw donors to give her money, which he then reimbursed. While he claimed to be the target of selective prosecution by a Democratic administration, the judge who oversaw his case dismissed that assertion as ďnonsense.Ē

But donít let facts intrude. ďWhat my case shows in miniature is the way Obama and Hillary [Clinton] too have gangster-ized U.S. politics,Ē DíSouza said on Laura Ingrahamís radio show Thursday. So much for remorse. But itís easy to see how nicely DíSouzaís assertions of victimhood dovetail with Trumpís theyíre-out-to-get-me strategy.

So, too, with the presidentís clemency-in-waiting for Stewart and Blagojevich. Stewart was convicted of obstructing justice and lying ó why take that crime so seriously? Blagojevich was convicted on corruption charges that Trump dismissed as ďbeing stupid and saying things that . . . many other politicians say.Ē How convenient to use a Democratic politician to transform criminal bribery into mere ďbravado.Ē

And if Trumpís freely flowing pardons have the salutary side effect of suggesting to those caught up in the Russia probe that they might ultimately benefit from presidential clemency, so much the better, from his vantage point. As with everything else in this administration, the act of pardoning is not about serving justice, it is about serving Trump.

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Old June 1st, 2018, 01:35 PM   #2
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Don't even get me started on Joe Arpaio. Grrrr......
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