This may explain Bill Barr’s sudden and unscheduled visit to the White House this afternoon. CNN is reporting that a federal judge made public 20 pages of partially redacted documents which indicate that the Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House, or to a Trump PAC in exchange for a presidential pardon.
Communications between attorneys and clients are typically privileged and kept from prosecutors as they build their cases, but in this situation, [Judge Beryl] Howell allowed the prosecutors access. Attorney-client communications are not protected as privileged under the law when there is discussion of a crime, among other exceptions.–“The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from [redacted]’s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name],” Howell wrote in her court order.–The grand jury investigation also appears to relate to unnamed people acting as unregistered “lobbyists to senior White House officials” as they sought to secure a pardon and use an intermediary to send a bribe, the unsealed court records say.–Over the last week, the Justice Department told Howell it wanted to keep filings related to the matter confidential in court, because “individuals and conduct” hadn’t yet been charged.
And Trump has clearly entertained the idea in the past. “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” he tweeted back in 2018.
As CNN’s Zach Wolf has noted, a presidential self-pardon is murky territory because “no other US president had the audacity to think he could do it.” And while the Constitution doesn’t say you can’t pardon yourself as president, a memo from the Justice Department in the final days of Richard Nixon’s tenure suggested he couldn’t do it.
Enter Sean Hannity, Fox News’ most recognizable personality and the President’s most ardent defender.
“I watched Andrew Weissmann come out and literally say, ‘Oh, Biden’s A.G. needs to go after Donald Trump.’
“And I’m like, the President out the door needs to pardon his whole family and himself, because they want this witch hunt to go on in perpetuity. They’re so full of rage and insanity against the President.
“I mean, it’s — can the President — I assume that the power of the pardon is absolute, and that he should be able to pardon anybody that he wants to.”
There is a silver lining to the last act of this corrupt saga of Trump. Democracy has a lot of chinks in her armor and the presidential pardon power is one of them. In the hands of an ethical person, it has not been misused before. In the hands of Donald Trump, it’s like putting a .44 magnum in the hands of a five year old. So we can put some guardrails on the pardon power, or we can blithely assume that there will never be another Trump and I don’t think the latter is a good bet. Not with 73 million deluded souls who cast a ballot for this one.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.