Monday, December 09, 2019


The conventional wisdom, as outlined in this Politico story, is that President Trump won't pardon former associates until after Election Day, no matter how hard those associates try to lobby him via surrogates.
Roger Stone’s supporters are making a pardon pitch everywhere President Donald Trump looks: Fox News, InfoWars, Twitter, even the White House driveway.

Michael Flynn abruptly hired a bombastic lawyer who spouts Trump-friendly theories about FBI duplicity that are widely seen as a pardon play.

Paul Manafort has kept himself on Trump’s radar from behind bars in a federal penitentiary by feeding the president’s personal attorney a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 campaign....

In Trump’s White House, few of his top aides see pardons for the likes of Stone, Flynn or Manafort as a good idea, at least not until after Election Day 2020.
I can imagine two scenarios. One is that Trump never pardons these people, even after the election. Why bother? For Trump, loyalty is a one-way street; people should be loyal to him, but he feels no obligation to return the favor. He'll need to see some reason that a pardon will be useful to him. If he's lost the election, maybe a pardon will mean that these guys won't cooperate with authorities in any future cases against him or his family. But if he's won, what's the point? He can't go to jail for four more years. He'll get to nominate even more federal judges. He night forget all about Stone and the rest -- he's certainly not going to pardon them out of the goodness of his heart. Trump does nothing out of the goodness of his heart.

On the other hand, if Trump decided to pardon any of these people, why would he wait until November? Pardons that seem to you and me like obstruction of justice wouldn't upset his voters -- the base would be pleased, while critics would be furious. It's not as if he'd suffer negative consequences; no one's going to start a second set of impeachment proceedings.

If he's inclined to pardon these guys now, the only thing that might be holding him back is the possibility that pardons might upset a few Republicans in the House or Senate who aren't card-carrying members of the Trump cult. Trump wants a perfect score among Republicans in both houses -- no votes to impeach or convict. So far, he appears likely to get that. But pardons of criminal associates might upset Mitt Romney or Lisa Murkowski. (I doubt it, but I keep hearing that they could turn against him any day now.)

He wants no GOP impeachment defectors, which is why I believe he'll issue pardons, if he ever does, just after he's acquitted in the Senate. That would be the ultimate fuck-you. What's the downside? There'll be a few angry editorials in mainstream newspapers? That would be catnip to him.

The only question is whether he can be bothered to do it. Pardoning military war criminals was an easy call: Trump wants liberal tears and reflected glory from other people's military service -- this gave him both. He thinks soldiers who kill unarmed Muslims are more badass than soldiers who observe the rules, and so does his base, thanks to Fox. But the base doesn't really have a mancrush on Roger Stone or Paul Manafort. Neither does Trump. So he might just let them rot.

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