Today’s pardon of conservative troll Dinesh D’Souza ratified once again the fact that above all else Donald Trump is in love with his pardon power because it so totally comports with his fantasy of what being president is all about, which is a ceremonial position with autocratic fringe benefits. Trump really thought the presidency would be just one big awards ceremony, where he would be cheered on as he mouthed Fox News talking points, and sent Marine One out to pick up KFC between golf dates. Of course, an integral part of his fantasy is also playing big shot for his friends, imposing his construction of the rule of law on one and all — and that is where we are “in uncharted territory,” as Duke Law School Professor Lisa Kern Griffin put it; uncharted and dangerous. Rolling Stone:
Each of these three [D’Souza, Arpaio, Libby] pardons is red meat for the base. They’ve got the fingerprints of Trump’s vindictive streak all over them. But above all, these pardons signal a growing willingness by Trump and his White House to use the power of the pardon in troubling new ways and for the benefit of political allies in legal trouble.
The D’Souza, Arpaio and Libby pardons each stem from different violations of the law – but they all bring into relief Trump’s outright hostility to basic tenets of governance and the law. “If you think of these three pardons as slaps in the face of the rule of law, national security, and fair elections, that’s the democracy trifecta,” says Peter Shane, a professor at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law.
The three pardons can also be viewed as Trump signaling to aides and associates who are or could be targeted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Each of the three issues at play in the cases of D’Souza, Arpaio and Libby are also issues that fall under Mueller’s purview.”If you look at the trio of pardons together – the Arpaio, Libby, and D’Souza pardons – you have a trio of pardons for contempt of court, national security breaches, and campaign finance violations,” Griffin says. “Those are all precisely the sorts of things the president and his associates are exposed to.”
If there is one person who is supposed to hear the dog whistle of the Trump pardons, it’s none other than Michael Cohen
Today’s pardon yet another signal to Michael Cohen and others about the possibility of a Trump pardon—-and this one, like potentially Cohen’s case—involves campaign finance violations https://t.co/XUPUORB2EZ
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) May 31, 2018
"Trump’s pardon sends an unmistakable signal: He will abuse the pardon power to excuse those who flout the rules that protect the integrity of our democracy." —@CommonCause president @KHobertFlynn https://t.co/BhZLzupVoV
— Aaron Scherb (@aaronscherb) May 31, 2018
“Donald Trump has sent a message to his friends and cronies that if you break laws to protect him or attack our democracy, he’s got your back. That’s the same message he’s been sending to Vladimir Putin for the last two years,” said David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice. “Contribution limits are a key bulwark against corruption in politics and pardoning the man who knowingly violated them is in direct conflict with his pledge to drain the swamp in Washington.”
“Every day Trump and his administration find a new way to degrade ethics and accountability in government, whether it’s pardoning people who break anti-corruption laws, profiting off the presidency, or attacking any regulation industry donors don’t like,” said Donnelly.
Trump is indeed sending a message to his cronies that he’s got their back, and that message is tailored for Michael Cohen, who knows who all the skeletons are and in what closets they reside. Don’t look for the pardon fest to stop anytime soon, Trump’s just getting started. “It is quite an expansive power,” says Professor Griffin, “and he seems quite intent on demonstrating that.”