You know, I’m 60 years old, soon to be 61, and I gotta tell you, I’m really starting to miss the old days. I remember way back when “Banana Republic” was nothing more than a trendy clothing line. Now, it’s a phrase that is being more and more frequently used to describe the United States government under El Presidente Pendejo. In circumstances like these, even a 10 year old would pine for the better times of the past.
Ever since the day 2 1/2 years ago when Trump took that cursed ride down his schlock palace golden escalator, he has striven to break every norm of politics. He became the first to insult and ridicule every single voting bloc in the US except for older, angry, scared men and avowed racists. He threatened to basically disavow his own party and run as an independent if they didn’t bow to his political brilliance. He became the first Presidential candidate in modern history to refuse to release his tax returns for public scrutiny. He steadfastly refused to divest from his private business interests, claiming that a President can’t have a conflict of interest, leading ethics lawyer Richard Painter to file a federal lawsuit hoping to force him to do so under the emoluments clause of the US Constitution. The biggest problem here? He got away with all of it.
Let’s be honest, politically speaking, Donald Trump isn’t worthy of holding Vladimir Putin’s jockstrap. But he’d sure as hell like to be him. Having been a petty tyrant in his business dealings, he’d like nothing more than to be an imperious national tyrant over the rest of us. Fortunately, at least so far, our constitutional norms and safeguards are holding him at bay.
The fact that Der Gropinfuror is inherently corrupt is not in question. He soaked the taxpayers by charging the Secret Service for office space in Trump Tower for their command center for his protection, to the point where they actually moved it to a different building, possibly compromising his security. He charges the government he heads for room expenses if secret Service agents are housed in his properties while he’s in attendance. He is enriching himself and his family by holding political functions at premium prices at his own properties, even though similar accommodations are available elsewhere at more reasonable prices. So far, he has gotten away with this scam, but once again he’s pushing the boundaries to the breaking point.
But now, we are rapidly approaching the point where Trump may delve into the last frontier in political space. Pardons. Trump loves pardons. He is so bloody fond of opining that the power or Presidential pardons is “absolute.” He has even raised the specter that he could conceivably pardon himself. The first question that should come to mind is why in the hell a clean, ethical President would need to think about pardoning himself in the first place. But the power of pardon is what Trump sees as his ace in the hole, a method to keep potential witnesses against him quiet, in return for a missus from the Emperor.
But, as with everything else in his sad, misbegotten life, Trump has his head so far up his ass that he can see his lungs. He clearly hasn’t thought the implications through, either for himself, or for anybody else. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a pardon as “the excusing of an offense without exacting a penalty.” In other words, it’s for guilty people. Don’t just take my and Merriam-Webster’s word for it, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the acceptance of a pardon is an admission of guilt. Innocent people don’t need to be pardoned.
The rule of our country is based on laws. And one of those laws is that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. Trump is considering using a pardon as a preemptive carrot to prevent people from testifying or providing incriminating information against him. How do you pardon an innocent person? As far as I know, the only Presidential pardon without a conviction on record was President Gerald Ford pardoning Nixon. And even that wasn’t politically motivated, Nixon was likely to be indicted, and Ford wanted to spare an already torn country from the anguish of a former President going to trial. Trump only pardoned Joe Arpaio after he was convicted, when he couldn’t get the Justice Department to drop the case. Don Jr, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, none of them have been convicted in a court of law of anything. Hell, other than Manafort, none of them have even been criminally charged. Can Trump legally pardon someone for not having done anything wrong, or pardon someone in advance of them being found guilty of a crime? If he does, I have little doubt it will be challenged in court. And if he does, he adds “abuse of power” to a possible “obstruction of justice” charge against him for impeachment. And if the outcry over his preemptive pardons is loud enough, congress may have little option but to act.
But we already know that His Lowness is at least toying with the idea of preemptively pardoning himself, becaus the power of the pardon is “absolute.” The second amendment to the constitution gives the “absolute” right of gun ownership to US citizens. Except it doesn’t. Courts and laws have decided that certain citizens, such as convicted felons, the severely mentally impaired, and domestic terrorists have forfeited that right.The constitution gives the “absolute” right to bear arms, but the Supreme Court has ruled that this doesn’t extend to things like tanks and rocket launchers. It’s not absolute. The concept that Trump could pardon himself would mean that he literally could ‘Walk out onto Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and then give himself a free pass. It’s absurd on the face of it. If Trump dares to try that, I guarantee you it will end up before the Supreme Court, in addition to giving congress yet another “abuse of power” cudgel to whack him over the head with in impeachment.
So far, this is all rhetorical. But, as the Mueller noose tightens around Trump, and as more information is revealed, and more miscreants come closer to flipping, it becomes more likely as each new revelation comes out, especially about his family members, that desperation will drive Trump to actually perform one or both of these actions, just to save not only his own skin, but those of his nearest and dearest. And if or when that happens, all legal and political hell is going to break loose. As Rachel Maddow likes to say, “Watch this space.”