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February 19, 2018

"Conservatives urge Trump to grant pardons in Russia probe"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new Politico article.  Here are excerpts:

After months of criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, President Donald Trump’s supporters are issuing increasingly bold calls for presidential pardons to limit the investigation’s impact.  “I think he should be pardoning anybody who’s been indicted and make it clear that anybody else who gets indicted would be pardoned immediately,” said Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and senior vice president at the conservative Center for Security Policy.

The pleas for mercy mainly extend to the four former Trump aides who have already been swept up in the Russia probe: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.  But they don’t stop there.

“It’s kind of cruel what’s going on right now and the president should put these defendants out of their misery,” said Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist. “I think he should pardon everybody — and pardon himself.”

Klayman and Fleitz spoke before Mueller indicted thirteen Russian nationals on Friday for staging an elaborate 2016 election interference operation in the United States. Democratic leaders said the hard evidence of Russian meddling underscores the importance of letting Mueller’s investigation run its course....

Trump’s lawyers and aides insist it’s premature to discuss even the possibility of pardons. “There have been no pardon discussions at the White House,” Ty Cobb, the White House attorney who leads the president’s official response to the Russia investigation, told POLITICO on Friday just hours before Mueller’s latest indictment was released.

After the Washington Post reported in July that Trump had tasked his aides with researching his pardon powers, Trump dismissed the story — while also making clear his view of the law. “While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS,” Trump tweeted....

Trump has issued one pardon since taking office, to the controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was facing criminal contempt of court charges for defying a court order to stop profiling Latinos.  That August action, in the face of strong political opposition, makes some conservatives think that Trump would be willing to defy his critics again. “He did it for Sheriff Joe, so I’m thinking he would do it for other circumstances as well,” [Tom] Fitton said.

There has been little sign of Congressional Republican support for the idea of pardons. In the days after Flynn pleaded guilty, South Carolina Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott both urged Trump not to pardon Flynn. Scott said it is important to have accountability and “a process that is clear and transparent.”

Pardons would also come at a high political cost, former George W. Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. “It’d just raise even more questions about Donald Trump if he pardons those closest to him because people will think he’s trying to protect himself.”

“You should let justice run its course,” he added.

Even some conservatives who support pardons in principle are wary of the severe political backlash they are certain to trigger.  Mike Cernovich, a conservative activist who has been affiliated with the alt-right but rejects that label, said he believes the moment for pardons has passed and that Trump needs to wait until after the November mid-term elections.  “If the Democrats take over, pardon everyone,” Cernovich said.  “They’re coming for you anyway.  They have their nuke with impeachment. You have your nuke with pardons.  And then settle in for an interesting two years.”

February 19, 2018 at 04:46 PM | Permalink


The charges were pretextual, and an attempt to overturn the result of the election of 2016. The investigation is a crime itself. People were caught filling out complicated forms incompletely.

Your profession is a disgrace and making people angry.

I would support the direct action movement when the public decides to correct the lawyer profession. I want to draft the Amendments that will prevent its future crimes.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 19, 2018 6:06:06 PM

Behar, today is Tuesday. It's the blue pill, not the red one.

Posted by: anon2 | Feb 19, 2018 10:28:57 PM

I don't know. What Manafort and Gates did was undoubtedly criminal and also quite bad. At the same time, David is correct -- the investigation started as an effort to "get" Trump. That, combined with the equally obvious decision not to notice Hillary's violation of 18 u.s.c. 793(d), leaves a hell of a stench.

What Papadopolous and Flynn did wrong, if anything, was a joke. It sure looks like the FBI got them to lie to the FBI, for the purpose of charging them with lying to the FBI. That's absurd.

In a sane world, what would have happened is -- the FBI would have charged Clinton, Manafort, and Gates for their respective crimes, and would have left Papadopolous and Flynn alone. Those would have been appropriate choices for a nonpartisan, unbiased organization that was simply trying to enforce the law.

However, we do not live in a sane world. What is to be done?

I would support pardons for Papadopolous and Flynn.

There has been a tradition that each Administration chooses not to notice the crimes of its predecessor. That actually makes sense, up to a point. But when the predecessor's crimes involve finding pretexts to spy on associates of the opposing Presidential candidate, that's far enough beyond the pale that something has got to be done. It would therefore appear to make sense to prosecute whoever was involved in presenting the Dossier to the FISA court as "evidence," as well as whatever other crimes were involved in enabling the surveillance of the Trump team.

As for what Clinton did, again it's pretty far beyond the pale. But the Democrats, almost to a person, don't seem to get this. For that reason, charging her would likely tear the country apart. I would reluctantly conclude that the electoral defeat was punishment enough.

I'd be interested to see Doug's thoughts on all of this.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Feb 19, 2018 10:38:01 PM

-- the investigation started as an effort to "get" Trump --

The investigation was started to investigate Russia involvement in the 2016 election.

DB's take would be some dig at Clinton and a positive spin on any usage of the pardon power. I say this only partially tongue in cheek.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 19, 2018 10:54:34 PM

Pardons all around should make this entire pretextual violation of the constitution a total waste of time and money. It is a good idea. And do it, every time they come up with another pretextual attack on the valid election.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 20, 2018 1:43:52 AM

Justice Thomas, like Trump, is a pussy-grabber of the first order: both need to be impeached.

New York Magazine Makes A Case For Impeaching Clarence Thomas
“The idea of someone so flagrantly telling untruths to ascend to the highest legal position in the U.S. remains shocking, in addition to its being illegal.”

By Nick Visser

New York Magazine is laying out a case for the possible impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The cover story, penned by former executive editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson, described Thomas’ rise to power and his apparent immunity to scrutiny during the height of the #MeToo movement. Citing conversations with three women who worked with Thomas, Abramson also detailed a history of lies told by the judge, beginning during his confirmation hearing.
His dishonesty, not the allegations of impropriety, “raise the possibility of impeachment.”
“Lying is, for lawyers, a cardinal sin. State disciplinary committees regularly institute proceedings against lawyers for knowingly lying in court, with punishments that can include disbarment. Since 1989, three federal judges have been impeached and forced from office for charges that include lying. The idea of someone so flagrantly telling untruths to ascend to the highest legal position in the U.S. remains shocking, in addition to its being illegal,” Abramson wrote.
During Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearing, former employee Anita Hill accused him of sexually harassing her.
Abramson is the co-author of “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas,” a 1994 book about his controversial confirmation hearing. During the 1991 hearing, former employee Anita Hill accused him of sexually harassing her. Hill alleged that Thomas talked about pornography in the workplace and regularly commented on the bodies of female coworkers.
Thomas claimed he never talked to Hill about porn or to other women who worked with him about risqué subject matter.
The hearing quickly turned into the epitome of a he-said, she-said, and despite the allegations, Thomas was later confirmed by a vote of 52-48. Since then, more women have come forward with similar claims about his behavior.

Abramson said Thomas’ tenure on the court has been “devastating for women’s rights,” and highlighted his votes on cases involving equal-pay protections and employers’ religious objections to supplying birth control.
“His worldview, with its consistent objectification of women, is the one that’s shaping the contours of what’s possible for women in America today, more than that of just about any man alive, save for his fellow justices,” Abramson wrote.

Posted by: anon21 | Feb 20, 2018 9:59:08 AM

anon21 helping those who have to deal with paywalls?

Posted by: Joe | Feb 20, 2018 10:09:49 AM

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