“For Trump, whether the crime is corruption, lying to law enforcement or even war crimes, justice does not apply to those who have been loyal to him,” read a USA Today op-ed published on Wednesday. This statement set the tone for media coverage of President Donald Trump’s opening salvo of end-of-term pardons, which saw campaign associates, corrupt businessmen, and even war criminals walk free in recent days.
Among more than two dozen names pardoned were former campaign workers Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and George Papadopoulos, all of whom were ensnared in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation, arguably overzealously.
More controversially, Trump granted clemency on Wednesday to Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared. Charles Kushner was convicted of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering back in 2005, and his pardon seemed entirely a family favor.
Even less defensible was Trump’s pardoning on Tuesday of four Blackwater mercenaries convicted of the massacre of civilians in Iraq in 2007.
“The pardon power is traditionally viewed as an instrument of mercy and justice, a way to right wrongs,” the USA Today op-ed continued. “It is now abundantly clear that, for President Donald Trump, the pardon power is just another avenue for corruption.” The Guardian said on Thursday that Trump’s pardons “debase the presidency,” while the New York Times accused Trump of abusing his power of pardon “for all it’s worth.”
To put things in context, Fortune magazine compared Trump’s use of his clemency power to his predecessors. While Trump has thus far pardoned his “political cronies,” read an article on Wednesday, his predecessors “used the pardon power to address systemic injustice, such as racist drug sentences, or to address broader political riffs in the country.”
So far, so ‘Orange Man Bad’, but this is not exactly true.