There’s been a lot of angst regarding President Trump’s use - some would say abuse - of his pardon power. While I agree that the people who the president picked for clemency are, for the most part, a sorry lot, such a move shouldn’t surprise anyone. Personally, I would have been surprised if Trump had not pardoned loyal soldiers like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos.
Similarly, the Constitution gives the president almost unlimited pardon power with the sole limitation being that the president cannot someone who has been impeached. Constitutionally speaking, the president can issue pardons to whomever he wants and for whatever reason he wants. Trump’s pardons are constitutional even if they are unethical and ill-advised.
The silver lining is that the fusillade of pardons betrays the fact that President Trump realizes that his time in the White House is rapidly coming to an end. If the president really thought that he had a chance of winning a second term, there would be no reason to rush the pardons of his cronies and the other assorted swamp creatures that are being loosed upon the country.
If Donald Trump thought that he had a prayer of staying in office, he would keep the pardons on ice. The pardons, which are not popular with most of the country, could sway public opinion against the president in his attempts to overturn the election, but Trump knows that public opinion - and the law - is already against him. The pardons are an attempt to both pay off his loyal lieutenants and shore up his base for whatever comes after January 20.
Delay would also make sense because of the Senate runoffs in Georgia. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are both facing tight races in an election that is only two weeks away. The pardons are generating bad press for the Republican Party that could help tip the scales of the race.
President Trump’s pardons are an indication that he knows that his presidency is coming to an end and that he has no loyalty to the Republican Party he leaves behind. Even though the pardons are unethical, they are legal and constitutional. The way to prevent abuse of the presidential pardon power in the future is to elect presidents of good character and to impeach those who abuse their authority.