President Trump’s unforgivable pardon of the sleaze Dinesh D’Souza and musings about pardons for Martha Stewart, Rod Bogoyevitch, as well as two contestants from The Apprentice is the most bizarre, and personal use of pardons this early in a presidency we have ever seen (Clinton made some inexplicable pardons the morning he left the presidency). As I noted last night, these pardons are all meant to send a signal, to serve Trump’s personal purposes, and bear no relation at all to the ends of justice, which is the idea with pardons, to serve as an ultimate check on justice. These pardons are of the type that happen in a dictatorship. Do you think any of Putin’s “friends” are in a Russian jail?
Fortunately, Rachel Maddow PdD and Rhodes Scholar, broke down for us how the power to pardon is not unlimited and can constitute a crime, that being criminal obstruction of justice.
“Yesterday, we found out that the prosecution of the president’s longtime personal lawyer is going ahead in the Southern District of New York, today the president issued a full pardon to this guy who was convicted by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York,” she said. “The president also decided today to dangle the prospect of a whole bunch of other pardons for other people you might have heard of.”
She continued: “Psychologically, the president has started using the pardon power in a way that is designed to showcase his own power to arbitrarily pardon whoever he wants, outside any system. To act on a whim, to do it whenever he feels like it.”
If a prosecutor can prove that a president issued a pardon for his own means, to further his own agenda, then the act becomes like any other self-serving road block put up in the attempt to obstruct justice. It is a question of proof. Nixon floated the idea of pardoning his chief of staff Bob Halderman, and it is on tape that Halderman shut him up. (Halderman had yet to be charged but that was just a formality.) Halderman took it as a given that such a pardon would be obstruction of justice.
The power to pardon is not unlimited, like anything else in our nation of laws, it cannot be done for the president’s own purposes. IOW, you can’t use a pardon to save your own ass. Nixon wouldn’t do it because he had real people around him who knew the law and knew the country. Trump might do it because he doesn’t have real people around him and could give fk all about the country when it is the country versus saving himself.
Presidential pardon power is broad, but you can’t just do it for anybody in any circumstances. If Nixon couldn’t do it for Bob Haldeman, why would anyone think Trump could do it with Michael Cohen? pic.twitter.com/pg1QwlM1xy
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) June 1, 2018
The other limitation of presidential pardons is they do not work in state courts. Only a governor can pardon a state crime. Much of what Cohen and Trump have done together violate state laws as well as federal laws. We can be sure that if Trump pardons Cohen before the process really gets going, as many predict will happen quickly, before the evidence gets analyzed thoroughly.