With Donald Trump in the last 48 hours of his presidency and with no further insurrection attempts currently taking place, America is now waiting for the final actions of the exiting president to cement his shameless legacy.
With Trump having so little time left in office, most attention is being focused on his plans to utilize his pardon power, one of the few virtually unimpeded abilities that a president can exercise without the influence and approval of the other two branches of government.
The Washington DC rumor mill is abuzz with reports that Trump has been considering issuing more than 100 pardons on his last full day in office tomorrow, with people seeking his clemency paying tens of thousands of dollars to dozens of Washington DC insiders — both well-connected lobbyists and influential lawyers — to try to convince the departing chief executive to put their names at the top of the list for the get out of jail (almost) free card.
According to The New York Times, Trump has largely ignored the traditional White House procedures to vet clemency requests which normally are funneled through “an intensive Justice Department review process.”
“Mr. Trump has shunned that process more than any recent president, creating an ad hoc system in the White House that Mr. Kushner has had significant influence over and has relied on input from an informal network of outside advisers, including [lobbyist] Mr. [Brett] Tolman. That system favors pardon seekers who have connections to Mr. Trump or his team, or who pay someone who does, said pardon lawyers who have worked for years through the Justice Department system.
The prospect of large sums of money exchanging hands to try to guarantee the receipt of a presidential pardon naturally raises the specter of the potential for bribery accusations against those on both sides of the transactions.
Current law does not prohibit convicted criminals from hiring an advocate to help them plead for clemency and there is — as of yet — no evidence that Donald Trump or his family have personally benefited from any of the sums being proffered in the pardon lobbying game.
Still, the system is ripe for abuse, particularly when money laundering and secret deals can allow the flow of cash to be obscured without too much trouble.
The biggest outstanding question regarding pardons is whether Trump will pre-emptively offer them to his family and close associates as he has with the others in his circle, like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, who have already received unearned mercy from their friend.
According to Reuters:
“U.S. President Donald Trump at this point is opting not to issue a pardon for himself as he prepares an expansive list of more than 100 pardons and commutations for release on Tuesday, a source familiar with the effort said” the news service writes.
While he still could change his mind, Trump is likely mindful of the fact that the ability of a president to pardon himself would likely be rejected even by a Supreme Court that includes three justices that he installed.
In addition, a federal pardon would involve an admission of guilt that his ego might not be able to withstand and would put him in further trouble with the state authorities in whose jurisdiction any federal clemency would not apply.
Even Trump’s most at risk attorney, the former New York City Mayor and Ukraine dirt-digger Rudy Giuliani, one of the few non-family members close to the rejected president that one would think could most benefit form executive clemency has gone on record saying that he is not seeking a pardon at this point, painting any reports that he has asked for one in the most lawyerly of terms.
The claims that I asked for, or received, any compensation for a pardon for myself or anyone else is false, defamatory, and malicious.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) January 18, 2021
Pretty ballsy for a man who has said that he can’t represent Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial because he may be called as a witness and who The New York Times has reported as seeking $2 million from John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, to help him secure a pardon.
By the end of the day tomorrow, most of the mystery surrounding exactly who will be the beneficiaries of Donald Trump’s clemency decisions will be gone, likely replaced by outrage over his choices.
The self-proclaimed “Law & Order” president will probably be the biggest culprit in the undermining of justice that this country has ever seen.
Hopefully, even if Trump does give himself a last-minute self-pardon and gives his family the freedom to ignore potential federal prosecution, justice will eventually be served, albeit not as swiftly as the majority of Americans would like to see.
With Trump in a no-win legal situation, particularly when it comes to the many state charges likely to be lodged against him, we’ll be able to rest assured that he will finally face some accountability for his criminal misdeeds.
It would simply be a shame if he doesn’t face FULL accountability.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.