Today, Donald Trump announced he was pardoning racist conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza who was convicted of violating campaign finance laws in 2014. D’Souza plead guilty to using “straw donors” in order to circumvent legal limits on campaign contributions to his friend, GOP Senate candidate Wendy Long.
He’s also pardoned Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby who was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in association with the Valerie Plame leak scandal during the Bush administration.
Now he’s floating the idea of more pardons, this time for Martha Stewart and a commutation for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Stewart was convicted of giving false statements to the FBI during their investigation of possible insider trading and served her sentence, but a pardon would remove the offense from her criminal record.
Blagojevich, who recently wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal bashing the FBI and Justice Department for “abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government,” was convicted of attempting to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat in 2010 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Wiretaps caught Blagojevich saying of the seat, “I’ve got this thing and it’s f-cking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f-ckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it.” Trump reportedly said of his comments, “A stupid thing to say—but 18 years?”
The message Trump is sending with these pardons are clear: if you have violated campaign finance laws (which Trump and Cohen are under suspicion for), lied to the FBI (as Mike Flynn plead guilty to), used your office for profit (as Cohen, Trump’s entire family, and Trump himself are under suspicion for), or obstructed justice (as Trump is being investigated for) then you won’t have to face any consequences of your actions.
There’s also a “Comey/Mueller connection” to these cases. Mueller was the FBI director when Blagojevich was caught trying to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder and Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuted the case. Fitzgerald was also the special counsel charged with investigating the Valerie Plame leak that led to Libby’s conviction. Fitzgerald was appointed by James Comey and has since joined the fired FBI director’s legal team. Stewart was convicted of lying to the FBI (again, then headed by Mueller) and Comey prosecuted her for it.
Trump has said about those prosecuted in these cases were “treated unfairly.”
-Trump on D’Souza: “He was treated very unfairly.”
-On Arpaio: “I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly.”
-On Libby: “He has been treated unfairly.”
These pardons are about undermining Mueller and law enforcement.https://t.co/ucA85JnBAt
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) May 31, 2018
This all adds up to a pretty clear strategy: cast Mueller, Comey and anyone who served alongside them in the Justice Department as overzealous lawmen desperate to score political scalps and happy to use any means to get them. It also sends a message to Trump’s allies that if they just stay strong and refuse to testify they’ll get their own pardon for being “treated unfairly.”
It’s a brazen attack on the rule of law from the party that claims to be for “law and order.” It’s happening right out in the open and there’s only one remedy for it.
The only check for the pardon power is impeachment. That’s it.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) May 31, 2018
And casting these convictions as cases of “politicized prosecution” comes at a time when Trump is actually attempting to politicize the Justice Department with his repeated requests for them to investigate his political rivals. Unfortunately, congressional republicans are either too cowardly to do anything about it or actively abetting the president in his continued descent into lawlessness. It’s the president vs. the rule of law and the GOP has chosen their side.