On Tuesday, President Donald Trump began handing out presidential pardons and commutations like they were bubblegum and he was trying to curry favor with kids, giving clemency to 11 people, including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was serving a 14 year sentence on 17 counts of corruption.
While many speculated that Trump was laying the groundwork for more controversial pardons he plans to grant later this year — Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone to to name a few — Aaron Blake of the Washington Post noted that the pattern the president has set with his pardons suggests that he may eventually try to pardon himself:
“Trump’s first pardon was for Joe Arpaio, who might be the most pronounced embodiment of Trump’s hard-line immigration policies in American politics. Arpaio’s crimes also involved disobeying a judge’s orders against racial profiling of suspected undocumented immigrants; Trump as a candidate in the months before the pardon advocated racial profiling and for a ban on Muslim immigration and, in one of his first acts as president, banned immigration from several majority-Muslim nations.”
Some of those who were granted pardons on Tuesday are also billionaires, so it appears Trump feels a special identification with those who have money:
“Of the fewer than three dozen people who have received clemency from Trump, at least three of them are reportedly billionaires, like Trump claims to be. Trump previously pardoned the media-mogul author of a Trump hagiography, Conrad Black, and on Tuesday, Trump added former junk bond king Michael Milken and ex-San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. There are an estimated 600 billionaires in the United States, and very few of them have gone to prison, but Trump has now pardoned three.”
So what can we glean from Trump’s pardons? Blake concludes by saying he thinks the president is symbolically pardoning himself:
“The Blagojevich commutation and the dual billionaire pardons Tuesday drive home the idea that Trump may sometimes see himself in these pardons. That’s too much coincidence for one day. Trump has maintained before that he has the ‘absolute right‘ to pardon himself if need be. He kind of already has.”
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