President Obama famously snarked that he didn’t need Congress so much because, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” That is, he could use his pen to issue executive orders and phone up leftist activists and groups to back his agenda, circumventing the will of the peoples’ elected representatives.
But with Donald Trump’s election as president, Obama’s pen has been turned into a pencil, and it’s got an eraser. Whatever the current president decrees between now and Jan. 20 can be rolled back on Jan. 21 by the next president.
If there are any drug dealers still in federal prison by the time Trump takes office, America will be fortunate.
But even though he is partially defanged, Obama can still do lots of damage. Make no mistake — he is still the president, and this petty, prickly president is undoubtedly very angry and intent on doing as much to preserve his deeply imperiled legacy as possible. He is a man with nothing to lose politically. And that could be a very dangerous thing for the Republic.
For starters, Obama probably will not allow Hillary Clinton to be prosecuted. He will likely issue a full pardon for both her and Bill Clinton for any crimes they may have committed related to her private email server and for both of their activities related to the corrupt Clinton Foundation. Hopes of reviving the FBI email investigation and the agency’s ongoing probe of Clinton Foundation will be killed off.
Let’s face it, the jig is up. The Democrats no longer have any reason to pretend that Clinton didn’t violate the law and that investigations may find much more wrongdoing. Trump may well be personally magnanimous and decide not to aggressively pursue his vanquished opponents. But given that chants of “Lock her up” were features of his campaign rallies, he will be under enormous pressure to do just that. The main question is whether Obama will also pardon her co-conspirators, including Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. And, hey, why not disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner while he’s at it?
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But there is a more profound reason Obama will pardon Hillary Clinton. One of the most underreported features of the email scandal is the president’s own potential criminal liability. Obama knowingly and stealthily — he used a fake name — emailed Clinton at her private address. He had to know both that a president’s own work-related emails are classified by definition, and that she was using a non-governmental email address, which could not exist in a classified environment. That is, if Clinton broke the law by putting classified information on a private server, so did Obama. And any indictment of the former secretary of state will draw Obama into the mix.
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The pardon is one of Obama’s most significant remaining powers, and beyond Clinton, he will use it with abandon. If there are any drug dealers still in federal prison by the time Trump takes office, America will be fortunate.
Obama has been issuing commutations at an unprecedented rate, mainly to drug dealers. On Nov. 4, he commuted the sentences of 72 individuals. On Oct. 27, 98 sentences were commuted. And on Oct. 6, he commuted the sentences of 102 criminals. In August, he issued 325 commutations. No doubt the pace will only pick up.
Obama can also expedite the acceptance of potentially dangerous, unvetted Syrian refugees into the country. As of September, he had already exceeded his goal for the fiscal year of admitting 10,000 refugees from Syria, bringing in a total of 12,500. In all probability, he will welcome as many Syrian refugees as possible before Trump shuts the door.
Obama may also do all he can to populate the country with future Democratic voters — aka illegal immigrants from Latin America. Advocates for illegal immigrants are already calling on Obama to halt all deportations, and he may well oblige, either informally or with an actual policy change. Once here, even illegally, immigrants can hope that at some future date they will gain amnesty or that a process for naturalization will be put in place for them to eventually become citizens.
Any signal by Obama that illegal immigrants will not be deported could cause a stampede of entrants desperate to get in before Trump takes power and gets serious about stopping the practice.
As president, Obama will continue for the next two months and eleven days to conduct foreign policy. And therein lies danger. There is no telling what actions he may take that could affect our alliances or war efforts in ways that may be hard for Trump to undo.
The president can, for example, abet efforts in the United Nations to issue some kind of condemnation of Israel for its settlements policy. No longer concerned with Jewish votes either for himself or Hillary Clinton, Israel will be at the mercy of Obama and any hostile actions he can think of. The president is deeply sympathetic toward the Palestinians and viscerally dislikes Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
One of the greatest post-election fears of Trump supporters will not become reality, though. The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which many expected to be considered and possibly approved during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, is likely finished. Obama, and even many congressional Republicans and their lobbyist allies, want the agreement to become law. But with Trump having made its rejection a centerpiece of his campaign, they will not buck the wishes of the voters so brazenly.
Keith Koffler is the editor of the website White House Dossier and the newsletter Cut to the News.