For a man who campaigned on cleaning up the swamp, two of the last minute actions of Donald Trump were curious. One, dropping the five year moratorium on White House officials serving as lobbyists. Two, pardoning a list of people convicted or accused of political corruption.
The first one is the obviously baffling decision. The Trump action not only doesn’t drain a swamp, it dumps many right back into it to use their former official cachet to make money and perpetuate a system the former president repeatedly claimed to be dead set against.
The second decision, while not the best optics and thus raising questions, seems more out of general clemency and compassion. A lot of people make mistakes in politics. Should those mistakes, as major as some are, define the rest of their lives? No. The former president understood this and pardoned those on both sides of the aisle, supporters and detractors alike.
However, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley finds the Trump pardons problematic.
Absent a last minute self-pardon, Trump will leave office without the ignoble distinction of a self-pardon. What is so telling is that we are so shellshocked from the last four years that this act of restraint was a reason for celebration and praise… https://t.co/XWIEZsgLP0
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) January 20, 2021
Turley: “I can pardon everybody’s mistakes except my own.’ Those words of Cato the Elder have long been the principle guiding presidents who have resisted the temptation of issuing themselves pardons. There have been ample abuses of this power, but that is one dishonor that presidents have spared the country.
“Absent a last-minute self-pardon, Trump will leave office without adding that ignoble distinction. He did not grant clemency to himself, his family or close associates like Rudy Giuliani.
“Indeed, Trump has pardoned those accused of acts that are similar to allegations that he has faced during this presidency. His legacy is heavily laden with public officials convicted or accused of wrongdoing. He previously granted dubious pardons for former California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter and former GOP Rep. Chris Collins as well as Joe Arpaio, the highly controversial former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz.” What Turley fails to consider is how many of these prosecutions were purely political and thus very deserving of a pardon.
“That pattern continued on his last day with pardons for former Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi, who was convicted of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeering. He also added former Rep. Robert Cannon ‘Robin’ Hayes, who served as chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and chair of the National Council of Republican Party Chairs. He was convicted of making a false statement to investigators. He also included former California Rep. Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham, who accepted bribes while he held public office.” Cunningham is a Vietnam War hero. In fact, he is one of the top fighter aces of the war. His service earned him that pardon.
“Yet, the most notable political operative is former adviser Steve Bannon, who has not even faced trial on serious fraud claims linked to an online fundraising campaign known as ‘We Build the Wall.’ Trump’s pardons show a disregard for prosecutions for political corruption and a great regard for his personal friends and political allies. There is little redeeming in that record. Indeed, in the end, the most redeeming moment was the absence of the additional abuse of self-dealing.”