As mentioned before, we're at the point where if trump is going to pay back his lackeys for their criminal misdeeds done in his name, the last 30 days before he gets dragged - literally by the sounds of it - out of the White House is when he's going to do so. Using the one tool in the Presidential arsenal he can deploy with no limit (he thinks, the law might disagree on some of them) or punishment: Pardoning his crooked buddies.
It makes a twisted kind of sense for trump to do all these near Christmas time, as though he was offering out gifts of mercy and justice. Except that he's not: He's handing out gifts to his grifters and even to war criminals. As Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo points out:
What Trump has found time for is granting pardons and commutations to, among others, four Blackwater mercenaries who massacred civilians, three corrupt former Republican congressmen, and two former Border Patrol agents who shot fleeing suspects. Among the 26 partridges and pear trees in Wednesday’s tally are longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Charles Kushner, father to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared.
Foreign agent and former sometime national security adviser Mike Flynn got a pardon. So did “coffee boy” George Papadopoulos, and more...
The ones in trump's orbit were the obvious ones, not just the lackeys who helped him cheat in 2016 with Russia's help but also the inner circle members who had family members, personal allies, or employees that needed a favor done.
The pardon to Charlie Kushner was a long-delayed payoff to trump's most loyal - and most incompetent - underling Jared. When you see what Kushner had been convicted of - massive acts of fraud, tax evasion, witness intimidation, and campaign fraud - you'll notice Charlie and donnie are pretty much brothers-in-crime cut from the same cloth. It's not surprising trump pardoned Kushner Senior: Not just because he's family by marriage, but because trump would think Kushner did nothing wrong since he does those things himself.
The Blackwater mercs seem to be a payoff to Erik Prince, one of trump's closest political and financial allies, but it also fits into trump's world-view that violence and cruelty towards others is perfectly acceptable. Those four war criminals had opened fire on an Iraqi public square at unarmed civilians back in 2007 and killed 17 people, it had taken years by 2014 for justice to be served, and now with a stroke of his pen trump undid all that. Without caring how this would look not only to Iraqis now betrayed by trump's callousness, but to a world that can no longer look to the United States as a beacon of justice.
It's not just the killers whom trump pardoned that underscores that cruelty:
Among the lower-profile pardons: one for Stephanie Mohr, a former Maryland police officer. Mohr was convicted for setting her K-9 partner on an unarmed homeless man who had surrendered to police during a burglary stakeout. Ricardo G. Mendez, a Mexican national, was not a suspect. He and another man had been sleeping on the roof of a printing shop in Takoma Park. She served ten years for a felony civil rights felony. The dog “bit a chunk out of the man’s leg.”
There wasn't a huge outcry for leniency towards Mohr, it's not like there was a constant drum-beat on even the Far Right media outlets defending her case. Yet trump found out about her and her act of cruelty somehow fit trump's ideal of how law enforcement should be encouraged to behave. Horrifying doesn't begin to describe the result this pardon deserves. Back to Sullivan:
The New York Times Editorial Board believes Trump “has made a mockery of mercy, doling out clemency to some of the most deplorable people in the country, an alarming number of whom happen to be his friends, while ignoring tens of thousands of more deserving applicants.” Trump has pardoned “a rogues’ gallery of wrongdoers who shouldn’t have been on anyone’s mercy list.”
But of course he would. Immediate family members are next, we suspect...
trump may be publicly claiming he's "won a second term" but he's governing this month like he's running out of time. That he'll offer pardons to his own kids and in-laws - who are currently under investigation and likely facing future criminal charges once they're out of power - even without specifying what they're needing pardons for will underscore the truth that everything trump and his people have done the past four years was run a criminal regime. Of course, trump and his children are too shameless to admit that.
The scary/funny thing is the likelihood trump will pardon himself. The one line that's NEVER been crossed even when the temptations were there for previous amoral/immoral Presidents facing their own fates (Nixon seriously considered it, but even he stepped back... and got Ford to do it instead). It's a line no ethical person ever conceived would be crossed: Taft, the only man to ever be President as well as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, never imagined the pardon power would be abused this way, and so granted that power a lot of leeway in its use.
But this is where power corrupts: When power is used for personal gain and avoidance of accountability.
And trump is going to do it. Everything points to him pardoning himself before he gets dragged out of the Oval Office. There is no norm of political protocol he won't break, there is no line he won't cross if it meant saving his own ass.
It will be the ultimate legal test of our Constitution, the limits of power itself when it is bent so far it becomes broken. It would be unlikely trump can pull it off: Most legal experts argue the concept of pardoning prevents it from being self-serving.
But trump has defied political and legal logic before. It is terrifying to think if trump gets away with this final act of firebombing our political reality.