Pardon the appearance
President Donald Trump’s latest prospective criminal pardons might have little impact on society at large — except for the big messages they send from the top of government.
Right-wing celebrity Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty in 2014 to committing campaign finance fraud by funneling funds to the campaign of Wendy Long, the 2012 Republican challenger to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Trump’s pardon of him Thursday sparked a tart Twitter exchange involving fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and D’Souza — whose mockery of grieving students on Feb. 20, six days after the Parkland High School massacre in Florida, drew condemnation even from the conservative CPAC.
Trump’s celebrities cruise
In other nullifications, Trump said he’s considering a pardon for Martha Stewart and a commutation for Rod Blagojevich, both of whom have been TV celebrities like himself.
The demonstrably corrupt Blagojevich, who appeared on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” had been impeached and removed as the Democratic governor of Illinois, and got 14 years, in part for soliciting bribes for an appointment to the Senate seat once held by Barack Obama.
Stewart was featured on “Apprentice,” too. She served five months after her 2004 conviction on obstruction, lying to investigators and conspiracy.
It comes back to Comey
Ex-FBI Director James Comey, a target of Trump vitriol fired amid the Russia probe, prosecuted the Stewart case while a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“Charging Martha Stewart was my first experience with getting a lot of hate and heat for a decision that had been carefully and thoughtfully made, he writes in his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.”
Comey also handled the Scooter Libby false-statement case during President George W. Bush’s administration. Trump pardoned Libby in April.
Reading the signals
Or to ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI?
Or is the pattern of his pardons since taking office a statement about the kind of charges with which he and allies could be hit in the special counsel’s probe?
Getting real on tariffs
The U.S. announced tariffs Thursday on steel and aluminum imports from allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union, risking the fallout of a global trade war.
Financial markets dipped. Canada hit back with tariffs on our steel and aluminum products, maple syrup, beer kegs, toilet paper and whiskey.
“We will continue to make arguments based on logic and common sense, and hope that eventually they will prevail against an administration that doesn’t always align itself around those principles,” said Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The E.U. and Mexico issued their own lists.
Talk about talks
First, North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un complained of “U.S. hegemonism” to Russia’s visiting foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Thursday.
Russia has remained mostly on the sidelines as Kim reached out diplomatically to the U.S., South Korea and China.
But in New York, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reported “good progress” in talks to revive a planned nuclear summit. A top Kim aide is due in Washington Friday to hand a personal letter to Trump, Pompeo said.
What else is happening
- Trump met in Texas with families traumatized by the fatal shootings at Santa Fe High School on May 18.
- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders choked up with emotion as she answered a question from a 13-year-old student at a briefing about school shootings.
- Cohen is heard on tape from 2015 making legal threats to The Daily Beast on client Trump’s behalf.
- Samantha Bee apologized for using a foul word to attack Ivanka Trump.
- Manafort’s friends have set up a legal defense fund as he fights charges of tax fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering.
- Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein told others he was asked by Trump to include the Russia probe in his memo justifying the Comey firing, the Times reported.
- Trump falsely tweeted again, quoting Rush Limbaugh about the FBI supposedly not telling his campaign about the Russia probe. It did.
- One convicted ex-pol Trump hasn’t helped is Republican Michael Grimm, who’s running to recoup the Staten Island congressional seat he forfeited due to a guilty plea in 2014 for corruption. Trump backed GOP incumbent Dan Donovan.
- Trump falsely claimed in tweeting his endorsement that Donovan voted for the tax bill he signed. Donovan voted against it.