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June 5, 2018

Prez Trump reportedly "obsessed" with pardons and "may sign a dozen or more in the next two months"

The latest dispatch from inside the Beltway on the clemency front comes in the form of this juicy new Washington Post article headlined "Trump fixates on pardons, could soon give reprieve to 63-year-old woman after meeting with Kim Kardashian." The entire article is a must-read, and here are just a few highlights:

President Trump has become fixated on his ability to issue pardons, asking his aides to compile a list of candidates and stirring dissent in the West Wing with his mercurial and seemingly celebrity-driven decisions.

Trump is telling aides that he is now strongly considering pardoning Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman serving a life sentence for a nonviolent crime, after meeting with Kim Kardashian last week to discuss her case — a move being resisted by his chief of staff and a top White House lawyer....

A White House official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity said Trump is “obsessed” with pardons, describing them as the president’s new “favorite thing” to talk about. He may sign a dozen or more in the next two months, this person added.

“It’s all part of the show,” said veteran Republican consultant Ed Rollins, a former strategist for a pro-Trump super PAC. “It’s not a rational or traditional process but about celebrity or who they know, or who he sees on ‘Fox & Friends.’ He’s sending the message, ‘I can do whatever I want, and I could certainly pardon someone down the line on the Russia probe.’ ”

The pardon for Johnson could come soon, with the paperwork being finalized Tuesday morning, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Trump’s aides and associates see Kardashian’s celebrity imprimatur as crucial and alluring to the president. But the potential pardon of Johnson has caused consternation in the West Wing, with top advisers — including chief of staff John F. Kelly and White House counsel Donald McGahn — disturbed by the process, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Kelly has reviewed Johnson’s background and her 1996 conviction — she was sentenced to life in prison on drug possession and money laundering charges — and is not convinced she deserves a pardon, an administration official said. And McGahn has also argued against the possible pardon as an unnecessary action by the president, a second official said.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser who helped arrange the meeting with Kardashian in the Oval Office last week, has heavily pushed for a pardon for Johnson within the West Wing, these officials said. Kushner attended the meeting between Trump and Kardashian, and having recently had his security clearance reinstated, has been described as newly emboldened by White House aides.

A White House spokesperson said the administration had no current announcements to make on pardons and declined to discuss the specifics of ongoing deliberations....

Trump’s pardons so far have been scattershot, driven by television segments, celebrities, friends and White House advisers who have pressed their cases for pardons that include controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Richard B. Cheney. He also posthumously pardoned heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson in May, after being lobbied by actor Sylvester Stallone....

Trump has begun asking friends who else he should pardon, according to an adviser who frequently speaks to the president, and some have offered suggestions. The president has asked McGahn to prepare a list of other pardons for him to consider, administration officials said.

Some people seeking pardons are now making their case on Fox News, the president’s favorite channel, knowing he may be watching. Patti Blagojevich, the former governor’s wife, appeared on “Justice with Judge Jeanine” Saturday night.... On Monday, the wife of former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos went on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and for the first time said she believed Trump should pardon her husband, who pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about Russia contacts during the campaign. Papadopoulos is awaiting sentencing on the felony charge....

The White House is also now weighing whether to grant a presidential pardon to two ranchers from eastern Oregon, Dwight and Steven Hammond, whose 2016 imprisonment on arson charges inspired the 41 day-armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ranching and farming groups, as well as some militia adherents, have pushed for clemency to send a signal that federal officials won’t engage in overreach out West.

The Hammonds’ supporters argue that the two men, originally convicted in 2012 on two counts of arson, shouldn’t have been forced to serve jail time on two separate occasions. While they would have normally served a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan initially gave Dwight Hammond three months and his son Steven a year and a day behind bars. But the government won an appeal over the Hammonds’ sentence in 2015, so they were resentenced to serve out the remaining years of a five-year minimum.

Prior recent related posts about Trumpian clemency activity:

June 5, 2018 at 08:30 PM | Permalink


Parsons? Jim Parsons?

Seriously, can see this. Commutations/pardons are great in his view -- plenary power and he can do it himself. He can make supporters and friends happy. As someone noted the "optimistic" thing is that mixed in there, eventually, good ones are included.

A sound use of the power is to use the normal process which can be improved but overall will take time to vet/do things right & be evenhanded.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 5, 2018 9:41:32 PM

Trump should pardon all the political persecution convictions carried out by Commissar of Left Wing Political Correctness Barack Hussein Obama, a Harvard Law School radicalized tyrant and super traitor. These include the prosecution of our warriors for their acts in an active combat zone. These prosecutions were a factor in our defeats by Stone Age savages, using $50 weapons.

Then Trump should fire Sessions, and get a real Attorney General. He can will need the courage to prosecute the tens of thousands of internet crimes committed by Hillary Clinton. These include receiving massive, factual payments in the $millions, from Russia, her being the real Russia colluder, in a quid pro quo as Secretary of State. Clinton, a Yale Law School radicalized lawyer, then erased 33000 emails after receiving a subpoena to turn them over. Each erasure is a separate crime. Clinton will not present any sentencing questions. She needs to be in federal stir the rest of her life.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 6, 2018 4:21:03 AM

JUST IN: "President Trump has signed a pardon for Alice Johnson," @axios reports.

I'll just get this out of the way.

DB can do his "I'm pleased" routine again and so am I to the extent this isn't a troll pardon, but this isn't some great improvement to Obama's steady approach. Leading with a bunch of troll pardons, tossing one Stallone's way (there is a reason why pardons of dead people have not been the practice) and then some scattershot approach where Kim Kardashian West or celebrities that satisfy Trump's fancy factor in a major fashion is not good practice.

The power is a fun toy for him and I'm happy a few worthwhile people will benefit but net this is not a way to run a railroad. And, from AG Sessions on down, this administration is not a great one for defendants. As to chance of passage of criminal justice reform, we will see how that goes, but seems a big factor there other than passage of a lot of time is that Obama isn't in office, so Republicans can pass it without it somehow a win for the Democrats or Obama personally.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 6, 2018 12:37:18 PM

Correction: commutation. More coming.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 6, 2018 12:40:21 PM

"The power is a fun toy for him"

Oh come on, it is a fun toy for all the Presidents. That is one of the major reasons people pursue power: to play with it. I do understand the concern about process but as as I see it (as a psychologist) this is largely a function of personality rather than political philosophy. As Rollins says, it is all part of the Trump show.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 6, 2018 12:58:19 PM

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