Whatever the truth regarding Deep State and Democratic Party charges of alleged Russian “meddling” in last year’s election (and I’m definitely in the camp that says there has been no hard evidence presented to show Russia hacked DNC emails), Donald Trump and his administration are now ensnared in a serious investigation by an independent prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, into obstruction of justice and other crimes that could technically lead to indictments of Trump aides and to Trump’s impeachment.
But don’t forget: Trump has one unassailable power as president – the power to pardon – and I predict he will wield it.
The U.S. Constitution gives a president the almost absolute power to pardon, including to pardon someone before he or she has been convicted of a crime or even indicted. As President Gerald Ford proved, such pardon power can even be used to pardon someone – in his case the disgraced and resigned ex-President Richard Nixon – before he had even been charged with a crime.
The only limitation on that presidential pardon power is that it cannot be used if the president is impeached, or to interfere with the impeachment process.
What this means is that as long as there has not been an impeachment of the president, or at least the launching of impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives, there is no constraint on President Trump’s use of his pardon power. He can, according to many legal experts, even pardon himself, though in that case he could still be impeached and removed from office, just not prosecuted for any crimes (impeachment is not a criminal proceeding, but is simply a process for removing a person from office).
I believe it is likely therefore, that Trump, for whom appearances, tradition, propriety, and the good of the country are all meaningless notions, will use his pardon power to block investigations into, and block indictments of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his top advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and anyone else who gets caught up in the investigation into crimes committed by him and his administration, his transition team and his campaign.
While such actions – even more shocking than Nixon’s abrupt firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal – would likely stun the public and would, by most Americans, be viewed an admission of Trump’s guilt, it would effectively eliminate any chance for Mueller to prosecute or even to investigate anyone in the Trump administration. People who are pardoned cannot be pressured by fear of indictment and a promise of immunity into turning state’s evidence.
Trump would no doubt present his pardons as being an appropriate action to kill an investigation that he is already characterizing as a “witch hunt’ based upon lies and “fake news” – a view shared by most of his ardent backers around the country.
How such a bold stroke would play out at that point is hard to say. Establishment Democrats would likely be encouraged by Trump pardons to push harder for his impeachment, but this approach could work to their own detriment. We’ve already seen in the last election how disenchanted much of white, working-class America is with the Congressional Democrats and their focus on inside-the-beltway fighting as well as their lack of interest in the daily struggles of ordinary people, white and non-white. This sentiment will be all the stronger because most of Americans really aren’t really concerned about Russia as any kind of threat these days.
At the same time, Republicans, who have shown a shameless lack of concern with ethics, morals and basic decency in supporting Trump no matter how obscene, selfish, brutish or narcissistic he behaves, could lose support, particularly among independent voters and erstwhile Democrats, if they were to go along with Trump’s use of pardons to protect his own ass.
It is really a no-win situation for both parties, which benefits Trump, who doesn’t really seem to care much about his place in history.