With less than 48 hours to go in the Presidency of Donald Trump, criticism continues to come his way, and this criticism has nothing to do with his “orchestrated instructions” to his supporters to march on, attack and seize control of the United States Capitol on January 6. Or does it?
We all know, deep down, the President still believes the election and his Presidency were stolen from him. As insane as that belief is, Trump continues to do things which make you scratch your head.
Over the past few weeks, Trump has resumed pardoning his allies. In an opinion piece in The Hill by Budd N. Shenkin and David I. Levine, they state, “In the wake of defeat at the polls, the courts, and the Electoral College, President Donald Trump has resumed pardoning allies and cronies. Undoubtedly more controversial pardons will come in his final days in office. Trump’s abuse of the pardon power harms the nation. Designed to be a benign instrument for dispensing mercy and for quelling civil unrest when warranted, 90 percent of Trump’s pardons have been used for those with personal connections to him or to advance his political goals, such as nullifying the results of the Mueller investigation.
If abuse of the pardon power were unique to Trump, we could perhaps relax on Jan. 20 at noon. Unfortunately, Trump has only accentuated a trend that began when President Gerald Ford pardoned ex-president Richard Nixon, continued when President George H. W. Bush pardoned the Iran-Contra conspirators, and continued further when President Clinton held a “pardon party” on the last day of his presidency. The only good news emanating from President Trump’s abuses is that they are so egregious, they may lead to long-needed reform of the pardon process.
Today, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ) released the following statement regarding reports that the President’s pardon power is being used for financial gain by those with close ties to the President:
“In the final days of a presidency tainted by abuses of power for personal and financial gain, it is not surprising that allies of the President have reportedly received tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the President for clemency. If there has been one guiding principle of President Trump’s time in office it has been that the President acts in his own best interest, not in the best interest of our nation. Instead of upholding our justice system, the President corrupted the pardon power by commuting sentences and pardoning multiple people who lied during investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as Republican House members who were sentenced for corruption. He has frequently thrown around pre-emptive pardons for his family members as well as for himself, an unprecedented move that would harm our democratic institutions and the rule of law. As President Trump’s term draws to a close, I am highly concerned about further corruption and abuses of power in the final hours. Even after Trump has left office, I will work with my colleagues to protect our democracy and address abuses of the pardon power.”
The media has even been speculating in recent days whether or not the President will try to pardon himself. Wouldn’t that be an interesting situation to contemplate? Shenkin and Levine addressed this possibility, saying “A variety of reforms have been suggested: prohibition of self-pardon, prohibition of pardons of family members, prohibition of pardons during the lame duck period, limitation of pardons to indictments already brought, prohibition of pardons for offenses committed against the judiciary, mandatory adherence to the recommendations of the Office of the Pardon Attorney, greater transparency, and others.”
The hours leading up to 12 noon on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 should be very interesting indeed.