Donald Trump's pardon trafficking is about one privileged figure above all others
Convicted criminals granted pardons by President Donald Trump over the past four years tend to fit five overlapping categories: associates who could have turned on Trump and did not; darlings of right-wing media; war criminals and rogue law-enforcement bullies; elite wrongdoers nailed by reputable prosecutors who Trump & Co happened to hate; and shameless flatterers.
The fact that Trump has not shut down talk of trying to preemptively pardon himself and family members feeds the image of his Oval Office as a clearinghouse for dubious personal services.
The unchecked privilege to make his associates' criminal cases go away with the regal wave of a pen clearly gratifies Trump. Better yet, he need not weigh the merits of thousands of pardon appeals from those without insider connections.
Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and other campaign apparatchiks, who knew much about what former special counsel Robert Mueller investigated, can now be considered taken care of — not with secret hush money but by fiat. Evidence suggested Trump intended to encourage Manafort not to cooperate with the government, according to Mueller’s report.
The quid pro quo suggests itself.
Those championed by right-wing media included four security guards from the private military firm Blackwater who were serving prison sentences for killing 14 Iraqi civilians including two children, and wounding dozens more, in a random 2007 massacre.
Victims' families expressed outrage. But the Fox network's Pete Hegseth gushed:"God bless the president for having the courage which a lot of other presidents wouldn’t do to pardon those men."
Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince, is a Trump donor and ally, as well as the brother of departing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Neither Trump nor his immediate relatives ever served in uniform. But the president seems particularly forgiving of those who did and abused their authority.
Earlier, Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the ex-Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff found guilty of contempt for defying federal orders restraining his aggressive profiling of Latinos. Also rewarded for his support was retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who twice admitted lying to the FBI in the Russia probe. So was former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who served time on corruption charges.
Trump also has seemed bent on dismantling convictions produced by law enforcers he deemed a threat. While in the Justice Department, former FBI Director James Comey pushed the big corruption case against former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose sentence Trump commuted.
Ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who for the moment has broken from Trump, prosecuted Jared Kushner’s father, Charles, a real estate magnate who was pardoned last week.
Rabid sycophancy rounds out the pardon pattern.
Dinesh D’Souza, a media figure who pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud, preposterously compares Trump with Abraham Lincoln. Conrad Black, a wealthy publisher convicted of white-collar fraud, had published an admiring book about Trump, "A President Like No Other." Stone, a self-described dirty trickster, still in fevered service, now goes so far as to spread ridiculous stories about election ballots being delivered in Maine on boats from North Korea.
And of course, Trump uses pardons to help loyal dwellers in his Washington, D.C., swamp. Disgraced ex-Rep. Chris Collins, who had been incarcerated on insider trading charges, got his free pass last week. When Collins, from the Buffalo area, became the first member of Congress to endorse Trump in 2016, he declared: "Donald Trump is the individual as president that can lead this country and reclaim our great state and provide a bright future for our children."
Stay tuned for more get-out-of-jail-free cards as the Trump term ticks down. And remember who creates and benefits from this stunning and shady landscape.