Pardoning Your Pals
The President’s plenary power to pardon is an essential part of his authority as head of the executive branch. The Framers recognized that, sometimes, the reach of criminal law is too wide and too harsh, even if correct under its black letter. Hence the power to grant clemency.
This week, however, and today in particular, President Trump pardoned a number of people, not because the system had treated them unfairly, but — we have no realistic alternative to believing — because they were his buddies or political allies.
There is no way to look at this other than as an abuse of office. Using your power (and your trust) as an officer of the government simply to shower benefits on your friends must be high on the list of what it means to be corrupt. I was honored to be one of President Trump’s nominees for the Sentencing Commission, but his actions today were wrong. In a later post, I will examine what if anything can be done to rein in abuses of this sort (which, I might add, are anything but exclusive to Donald Trump).