Friday Reads: Fishing for Presidential Pardons

Good Day Sky Dancers! 

We have 46 more days of the Trumpist Regime. Get ready for the Bronco Chases.

I’ve been on pardon watch especially since we’ve learned there’s been a bribery for pardons investigation. Watching Trump’s first batch of corrupt crony pardon recipients while they suggesting we become a dictatorship with specific suggestions has been pretty  appalling too!  It’s going to be fun watching Club Pardoneer grow its membership!  I’m personally watching my Pardoneer Bingo card for anything with the last name of Trump.

This first read is from The Nation and is written by Sasha Abramksy.  Here’s the headline and lede: “Why the Trumpists’ Calls for Dictatorship Should Worry Us. It may sound laughable, but it’s no joke—the GOP leadership and the right-wing media machine are colluding with Trump’s assault on democratic institutions.  The names in this article who are not current Pardoneers are likely an open space on the bingo card somewhere.

Trump campaign attorney Joe DiGenova said that Chris Krebs, the election security official whom Trump fired by tweet last month after he defended the integrity of the election, should be “drawn and quartered” and “taken out at dawn and shot.” Stalin couldn’t have said it better himself when talking about his perceived enemies in the Soviet bureaucracy.

Former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell—who was dismissed last month after pushing conspiracy theories (including that the long-deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez intervened to help Joe Biden) that were recognized as deranged even by the conspiracy-mongerers surrounding Trump—retweeted a call to invoke the Insurrection Act, suspend the meeting of the Electoral College, and set up military tribunals to deal with Trump’s enemies.

The following day, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, coming off a recent presidential pardon from Trump, urged his erstwhile boss to declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, and order new presidential elections under the supervision of the military.

Far-right media personalities have joined the fascist clamor. Lou Dobbs of Fox Business recently called for Trump to take unspecified “drastic action” against his enemies. The One America News Network has also suggested that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act as a way to remain in office.

And Trump himself—America’s isolated, mad, lonely king—seems increasingly besotted by a version of his story in which he rides in as the knight in shining armor to save America from a “rigged” electoral disaster. On Wednesday, Trump posted on Facebook a bizarre 46-minute video in which he regurgitated a myriad of conspiracy theories. He said it may be the “most important” speech he has ever given. Critics were less impressed. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker interpreted the rambling speech as a call to arms and wrote that it called into question the peaceful transfer of power.

Politico reports that 20 cronies  (aides and associates) are on Trump’s buddy list to become a Merry Pardoneer!  But wait! I thought no one did anything wrong!

Roughly 20 top aides and associates are on tap for a potential pardon, though the list is evolving, according to one of the people. The list includes Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who run the family’s namesake business, and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a husband-and-wife duo who are both senior aides at the White House. All four were involved in Trump’s reelection campaign.

Trump has even mused on Twitter that he has “the absolute right to PARDON” myself — a legally contested (but untested) claim.

Still, Trump is hesitant to pardon any of them, particularly Giuliani, because it may appear that members of his inner circle are criminals, said one of the three people, who spoke to Trump this week. The Giuliani pardon has been discussed more seriously, the person added.

A Republican who speaks to Trump and supports his potential 2024 bid predicted the pardons would not hurt the president. “It’s a big deal to Beltway types but not regular Americans,” the person said.

The pardons would be designed to prevent Trump’s allies from being ensnared in any more federal investigations.

Trump Jr. had been investigated for contacts that he had during the 2016 with Russians offering damaging information on his father’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton. Later, congressional investigators told the Justice Department that Trump Jr. may have lied to them during their examination of Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Kushner similarly received scrutiny for providing inaccurate information to federal authorities about his contacts with foreigners when he applied for his security clearance.

Neither was charged.

But the clemency would not extend to any state charges, congressional investigations or lawsuits — of which there are plenty.

The New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney, for example, have been investigating the Trump Organization for possible financial fraud. D.C. authorities also sued the Trump Organization and Trump’s inaugural committee, alleging the committee misused funds and funneled money back to Trump’s company. Ivanka Trump gave a deposition in that suit earlier this week.

Roger Stone was not to be outdone by others’ batshittery demonstrating the chutzpah required to be one of the original Pardoneers!  “Roger Stone, Who Had His Ass Saved by Barr, Turns on ‘Deep State’ Attorney General”  is the headline at The Daily Beast this week.

Remember in February when Attorney General Bill Barr trashed his department’s reputation to override the recommended prison term for Roger Stone and push for a much shorter sentence? Because, apparently, Stone has forgotten—and has gone on the attack against the AG. Trumpworld has reacted with fury to Barr’s statement Tuesday that there’s no evidence of voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election, and Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Stone, one of Trump’s longest standing allies, is particularly angry, even though Barr did him a huge favor earlier this year. In a video posted to Parler, Stone said he’s not surprised that Barr has “suddenly determined” there is no voter fraud, adding: “Bill Barr’s job is to block for the ‘deep state.’” Stone, who had his prison sentence commuted by Trump in July, also complained of a “two-tiered justice system.”

And his theory of election fraud is way out there in la la land. From Newsweek: “Roger Stone Says North Korean Boats Delivered Ballots Through Maine Harbor As Trump Boosts Fraud Claims.”

Former Trump adviser Roger Stone claimed without evidence on Wednesday that North Korea had interfered in the U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continued to assert that fraudulent activity was prevalent during the November election.

Stone, who has previously spoken of his respect for some members of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to investigators in connection with the Mueller probe into Russian election meddling during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence in July.

Stone never fails to disappoint those riding the Trump Crazy Train.

A presidential preemptive pardon sounds unusual, but it has been done before, most famously when President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, who resigned because of the Watergate scandal in 1973 but had not been charged with any crimes.

“A preemptive pardon is a presidential pardon granted before any formal legal process has begun,” American University professor Jeffrey Crouch tells NPR.

In an email, Crouch, author of The Presidential Pardon Power, says that “someone must have committed a federal offense, but as soon as that happens, the president can grant them clemency. He does not need to wait until the alleged offender is charged, stands trial, and so on.”

Crouch continues: “These pardons are not common, but they do happen occasionally.”

Accordingly, Trump could “pardon his children, his aides, his supporters, and so on for federal offenses and be on firm legal ground,” Crouch says. “The really unclear scenario would be if he attempted to pardon himself.”

Trump has asserted he has the power to pardon himself but has said he didn’t need to use it because he hasn’t done anything wrong. Not only might his denial about any lawbreaking be complicated by events following his departure from office, the merits of a self-pardon are controversial and have never been tested in court.

And although the potential legal problems facing Trump are thought to be well understood, at least in principle, it’s not clear what if any criminal offenses with which Trump’s children might be charged.

That’s also the kind’ve pardon Giuliani was allegedly asking about. Then, there’s this little investigation thingie going on about Campaign Donations for Pardons which was clarified by the NYT.

The Justice Department investigated as recently as this summer the roles of a top fund-raiser for President Trump and a lawyer for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a suspected scheme to offer a bribe in exchange for clemency for a tax crimes convict, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.

A federal judge in Washington unsealed heavily redacted court documents on Tuesday that disclosed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. The people said it concerned efforts by the lawyer for Mr. Kushner, Abbe Lowell, and the fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty in October to a charge related to a different scheme to lobby the Trump administration.

A billionaire real estate developer from the San Francisco area, Sanford Diller, enlisted their help in securing clemency for a Berkeley psychologist, Hugh L. Baras, who had received a 30-month prison sentence on a conviction of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits, according to the filing and the people familiar with the case. Under the suspected scheme, Mr. Diller would make “a substantial political contribution” to an unspecified recipient in exchange for the pardon. He died in February 2018, and there is no evidence that the effort continued after his death.

As part of the effort, someone approached the White House Counsel’s Office to “ensure” that the “clemency petition reached the targeted officials,” according to the court documents. They did not say who made the contact or how the White House responded.

There’s a lot of discussion about what exactly we should do when the Trump Family Crime Syndicate and all its high crimes and misdemeanors.  Here’s some things to read about prosecuting–or not–Trump and his cronies after they’re gone pecans.

From Politico: “The Right Way to Investigate Trump Once He Leaves Office. The Department of Justice can appoint a special counsel. It will help keep politics out of holding Trump accountable.”

This was always going to be a dilemma for Trump’s successor. After an openly self-dealing president like Trump, the nation needs to see that no American is above the law, and that there will be consequences for anyone—even a former president—who enriches himself at the nation’s expense or abuses his power.

But any prosecution of Trump, no matter how fair, will draw criticism from Trump’s supporters in an already-divided nation. Even non-partisan observers have reason to be concerned by the spectacle of the administration of a new president prosecuting the president who just left office. It’s essential for any stable democracy that elected leaders don’t use their new powers to punish their opponents after they’ve lost. No president has ever done it.

It’s possible that New York state may have the first go at him. This is from Business Insider. “Trump is worried that he may be prosecuted in New York after he leaves office”

The president faces a slew of legal issues on the federal and state levels once he’s out of office on January 20. New York Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices. And a federal court filing from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance suggested he was conducting an investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization on suspicion of bank and insurance fraud, The New York Times reported.

Trump was also named “Individual-1” in a filing by the Southern District of New York when his former attorney Michael Cohen was charged with making hush-money payments. And a lawsuit from two attorneys general alleged he violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause. His inaugural committee also faces a lawsuit alleging it schemed to funnel nonprofit money into the Trump family business.

The DOJ is beginning to look a little more like the professionals are back in charge as we approach January..  This is from the LA Times: “Trump aide banned from Justice Dept. after pressuring staffers for case information”.

The Trump aide serving as the president’s eyes and ears at the Justice Department has been banned from the building after trying to pressure staff members to give up sensitive information about election fraud and other matters that she could relay to the White House, three people familiar with the matter say.

Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump advisor Stephen Miller, was quietly installed at the Justice Department as a White House liaison a few months ago. She was told within the last two weeks to vacate the building after top Justice officials learned of her efforts to collect inside information about ongoing cases and the department’s work on election fraud, the people told the Associated Press.

Stirrup is accused of approaching staffers in the department and demanding that they give her information about investigations, including election fraud matters, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

The effort came as Trump continues to level baseless claims that he won the election and alleges without evidence that massive voting fraud was responsible for his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden.

I think this can be termed digging your own grave.  Biden has basically said he’d let the Justice Department be the Justice Department and stay out of it.  The DOJ appointment–including the AG–position  are forthcoming.  Biden and Harris discusses the operation of the Justice Department as well as dealing with the flurry of corrupt pardons with CNN‘s Jake Tapper.

Biden’s list of contenders for the job — from Sally Yates, former deputy attorney general, to Doug Jones, soon to be former senator from Alabama who was defeated in November — largely centers on former prosecutors whose history at the department could lend credibility with the public and career officials.

Others said to be in contention include Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor and former Justice Department civil rights chief; Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary under Obama; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra; and Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama White House and who previously worked at the FBI and as top national security prosecutor at Justice.

Biden, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, are interviewing contenders and weighing the decision. They are not expected to announce a decision until next week at the earliest, people familiar with the matter told CNN, but with a goal of doing so well before the holidays. The timing is also contingent on the nomination of a Secretary of Defense.

The job, for whomever Biden picks, will be a heavy lift. The pick will be stepping into a Justice Department damaged by the Trump administration and with low morale among career officials, many of whom have been publicly called out by President Donald Trump, Barr and other Republicans.

This is definitely going to be a long ride.  I’m wondering if it will involve at least one White Bronco at some point.  And, no we’re not there yet …

Have a good weekend!  Take care!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

26 Comments on “Friday Reads: Fishing for Presidential Pardons”

  1. dakinikat says:

    The economy is looking pretty bleak.
    Here’s a thought.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      I haven’t seen mention of how many people were there. 41 out of a 1000, wouldn’t be that unusual. 41 out of 60 is terrible.

  6. Rob Martin says:

    I’ve written my Senators and Congresswoman with a proposed amendment re: the pardon power. It would strip the president of unilateral pardon authority, and require pardons and clemencies to be a unanimous decision on the part of the president, the Speaker of the House, and the Supreme Court Chief Justice. It would stop this sort of corrupt crap, and also end the monarchical view of the presidency on the part of William Barr and others.

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. quixote says:

    An auctioneer runs an auction. So a pardoneer runs pardons? But then only the Dump can be a pardoneer. Were the others supposed to be “pardonees”? I keep hiccuping on the usage. What’s the connection of ideas? Confused. (As usual.)

    • NW Luna says:

      Well, it’s Trump. Of course it’s confusing and doesn’t make sense.

      Yes, I think the recipients of pardons would be pardonees, though Trump probably would be a pardoner rather than a pardoneer.

  11. NW Luna says:

    Another point of view on Trump pardons:

    But if Trump believes such pardons would protect the recipients from federal prosecution, he should think again. In addition to violating core democratic ideals, such a move might well prove beyond his constitutional authority.

    Most observers assume that the president is free to issue blanket pardons, believing the president’s power in this area is effectively unlimited beyond the few constraints explicitly mentioned in the Constitution (no pardons in cases of impeachment, or for state crimes). My scholarship suggests that interpretation is incorrect.

    In fact, based on the Framers’ original understanding of the pardon authority, the better reading is that, while the pardon power grants the president expansive authority, that power is not unlimited. Most importantly, the Framers would have understood that pardons must be issued for specific crimes. They were not intended to be broad grants of immunity, get-out-of-jail-free cards bestowed by presidential grace.

    As William Blackstone, the leading authority on English law at the time, declared: “A pardon of all felonies will not pardon a conviction.” Instead, the offense “must be particularly mentioned.” Blanket pardons, in other words, were invalid.

    The Supreme Court has never ruled on the specificity requirement, and the question of the validity of any blanket pardon by Trump would come up only if a federal prosecutor seeks to indict a pardon recipient who raises the pardon as a barrier to prosecution.

    But if the issue were to arise, there is a significant possibility that a court, dominated by self-identified originalists, would invalidate the use of blanket pardons.

  12. NW Luna says:

    Oh poor Donald. Another judicial ruling against him.

    Federal judge restores DACA, orders DHS to accept first-time applications from immigrants

    U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in Brooklyn said he was fully restoring the eight-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program to the days before the Trump administration tried to end it in September 2017. He ordered the Department of Homeland Security to post a public notice by Monday to accept first-time applications and ensure that work permits are valid for two years.

  13. NW Luna says:

    Love the National Parks graphics!