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Monday, February 19, 2018

Will he pardon the whole crew? Lots of people want him to.

by digby

Last night this lawyer mentioned that Mueller may not be putting all the evidence he has in the indictments, as is usual DOJ practice, for a very specific reason:

I made note of it in passing and then thought of it again when I read this:

“I think he should be pardoning anybody who’s been indicted and make it clear that anybody else who gets indicted would be pardoned immediately,” said Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and senior vice president at the conservative Center for Security Policy.

The pleas for mercy mainly extend to the four former Trump aides who have already been swept up in the Russia probe: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. But they don’t stop there.

“It’s kind of cruel what’s going on right now and the president should put these defendants out of their misery,” said Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist. “I think he should pardon everybody — and pardon himself.”

Klayman and Fleitz spoke before Mueller indicted thirteen Russian nationals on Friday for staging an elaborate 2016 election interference operation in the United States. Democratic leaders said the hard evidence of Russian meddling underscores the importance of letting Mueller’s investigation run its course.

But many conservatives note that the new indictment shows no evidence of collusion between Trump associates and the Kremlin. That reinforces their view that Mueller’s real target, if any, should be Russian President Vladimir Putin — not Trump’s circle. “[H]ow long will the leftist witch hunt against @RealDonaldTrump continue,” the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted hours after the indictment’s release.

And while the latest indictment could make it harder than ever for Trump to fire Mueller, as he has sought to before, mass pardons would be another means of defying the special counsel.

A president has the Constitutional power to pardon any citizen convicted of a federal crime, ending any prison sentence and clearing his or her record with the stroke of a pen. Pardons face no judicial or Congressional review, and the president is not obliged to explain his decision. The act of a president pardoning himself, however, has never been tested.
So far, the talk of pardons has mostly centered around Flynn, whose clemency Trump did not rule out in a brief mid-December exchange with reporters. “I don’t want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

That “yet” was music to the ears of Flynn’s supporters and family members, many of whom have taken to social media to build support for pardoning the retired Army lieutenant general who pleaded guilty in December to Mueller’s team for lying to the FBI.

“About time you pardoned General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall for all of you given the illegitimacy of this confessed crime in the wake of all this corruption,” Flynn’s brother, Joseph Flynn, wrote in a mid-December tweet. “Pardon Flynn NOW!” he added in a later message.

During a video interview with the prominent alt-right activist Jack Posobiec at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., last week, Flynn’s outspoken adult son, Michael Flynn Jr., encouraged viewers to promote online messages calling for his father’s exoneration and pardon.

“Just keep pushing out those hashtags, the ‘#ClearFlynnNow’ and the ‘#PardonFlynnNow,” Flynn Jr., said.

Tom Fitton, president of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch, said that allegations of anti-Trump bias among Justice Department and FBI officials circulated by conservatives would justify granting clemency to Trump associates like Flynn.

“The whole super structure of the Russia investigation is compromised,” Fitton said. “Those caught up in it deserve some protection. Rather than just let the virus run its course, it’d be appropriate for the president to consider pardons for people who are caught up in the prosecution.”
In an Oct. 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed column — published on the eve of Mueller’s first indictments against Manafort and Gates and the release of the Papadopoulos guilty plea — two conservative lawyers called on Trump to “end this madness by immediately issuing a blanket presidential pardon to anyone involved in supposed collusion with Russia or Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign… and to anyone for any offense that has been investigated by Mr. Mueller’s office.”

“The president himself would be covered by the blanket pardon we recommend,” wrote the lawyers, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, veterans of the White House counsel’s office and Justice Department in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. They argued that Russian election interference is a matter for a Congressional investigation, not a criminal one.

There are some Republicans who think it might be a bad idea. For instance, Mike Cernovich, chief troll, who wants him to wait to see if the Democrats take over congress:

Even some conservatives who support pardons in principle are wary of the severe political backlash they are certain to trigger. Mike Cernovich, a prominent alt-right activist, said he believes the moment for pardons has passed and that Trump needs to wait until after the November mid-term elections.

“If the Democrats take over, pardon everyone,” Cernovich said. “They’re coming for you anyway. They have their nuke with impeachment. You have your nuke with pardons. And then settle in for an interesting two years.”

I have no idea if Mueller is thinking about this. But it would not be surprising if he decided not to telegraph all the evidence he has knowing that this president, who has zero respect for the rule of law, has the power to pardon everyone involved. Now it's also true that Trump and his cronies may still be liable for state crimes, but it would be better if he is not aware of what those might be in advance, don't you think?

This is not an ordinary case and it's a mistake to judge the legal strategy of the prosecutors as if it is.