Which of the following would qualify for a pardon by President Trump?
- violating federal campaign finance laws
- obstructing justice
- lying to investigators
- selling of a United States Senate seat
- criminal contempt
- unauthorized retention of national defense information
- financial fraud
- insider trading
The answers are after the break.
That’s a trick question. The answer is all of the above. Trump has pardoned individuals who were indicted, tried, and convicted of at least one of those crimes and is reported to be adding more such pardons to the list. Here’s the listing based on reporting by the Washington Post (Trump offers pardon to conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, suggests others could be coming) and Huffington Post (Dinesh D’Souza Pardoned By Trump For Campaign Finance Violation).
- violating federal campaign finance laws - Dinesh D’Souza
- obstructing justice - Lewis (Scooter) Libby; Martha Stewart
- lying to investigators -Lewis (Scooter) Libby; Martha Stewart
- selling of a United States Senate seat - former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich
- criminal contempt - former Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio
- unauthorized retention of national defense information - former sailor Kristian Saucier
- perjury - Scooter Libby
- financial fraud - Sholom Rubashkin convicted off multiple counts of financial fraud.
- insider trading - Martha Stewart (charge dropped, but see above for other charges)
Stewart and Blagojevich have not (yet) been pardoned.
The [D’Souza] pardon would mark the latest instance of Trump deviating from the normal pardon process.
Generally, those seeking pardons must wait five years from the date they are released from confinement before becoming eligible, and they must apply to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. D’Souza does not have an application on file, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
[Former U.S. Attorney Preet] Bharara weighed in on Trump’s action shortly after it was announced, writing on Twitter that Trump had the right to pardon D’Souza but “the facts are these: D’Souza intentionally broke the law, voluntarily pled guilty, apologized for his conduct & the judge found no unfairness. The career prosecutors and agents did their job. Period.”
A senior White House official said as many as a dozen other pardons are under consideration by Trump, adding that most are likely to happen.
“There are going to be more,” said the official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the issue.
That is ominous. Scriber thinks the current crop of pardons is a trial run prior to granting pardons to those who in legal trouble over the Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump is reportedly frustrated by efforts, notably from Republicans, to keep AG Jeff Sessions in his job Saving Sessions: Inside the GOP effort to protect the AG. Granting pardons might be a way for Trump to skirt the firewall protecting the Mueller investigation presented by Sessions and deputy Rod Rosenstein.
The New York Times reports on various other reactions to Trump’s pardons: Trump Wields Pardon Pen to Confront Justice System.
As he has for all of his acts of clemency since taking office, Mr. Trump bypassed the traditional system for granting pardons and disregarded more than 10,000 languishing applications to focus instead on prominent public figures whose cases resonated with him given his own grievances with investigators. Some critics said he may even be signaling associates — like one of his personal lawyers, Michael D. Cohen, who is under investigation for possibly violating federal campaign finance laws — to stay strong and not help prosecutors.
Donald Trump has sent a message to his friends and cronies that if you break laws to protect him or attack our democracy, he’s got your back,” said David Donnelly, the president of the watchdog group Every Voice.
Advisers and analysts said Mr. Trump seems delighted by his pardon power. “It’s a way of Trump telegraphing that he’s in control of everything, including D.O.J.,” said Gwenda Blair, a Trump family biographer. “But there’s something about the almost capricious nature of this list that seems to me to suggest it’s like a little kid’s version of being in charge — I can do whatever I want and nobody can stop me.”
Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was one of many critics who saw Thursday’s pardon and the dangling of other clemency actions as a strategy to ensure loyalty within the president’s own circle.
“The President’s ad hoc use of the pardon power is concerning enough,” Mr. Warner wrote on Twitter. “But the possibility that he may also be sending a message to witnesses in a criminal investigation into his campaign is extremely dangerous. In the United States of America, no one is above the law.”
Except for a king.