There’s still time for more time for damage
Begging your pardon, but I fear President Donald Trump is not done with his yet. There is more chaos to come.
Trump began using his pardon power very early in his term. One of the first was “America’s toughest sheriff” Joe Arpaio, known for his cruel treatment of immigrants. Trump considered him a kindred spirit and his pardon sent Trump’s message of hostility toward immigrants. Each subsequent pardon can be connected somehow to its usefulness to Trump. Now that he is facing the end of his presidency, the pardons have become even more controversial.
Since government needs checks and balances to remain democratic, within the Justice Department there was established an Office of the Pardon Attorney which reviews clemency requests that are submitted to it. The attorney then makes recommendations to the president based on certain standards and for reasons such as amending an overly cruel sentence or as an act of mercy if the prisoner has shown reform and remorse and displayed penance for their crime.
As a comparison, the Christian religion reveres Jesus for being a merciful pardoner. Catholics confess their “sins” or wrongdoings to the priest who absolves them on behalf of God but who requires apology and penance. This is the idea behind the presidential pardon too. That is not how Donald Trump is using it.
Trump has ignored the pardon attorney completely. He is basing his pardons on personal choices, and they have become increasingly blatant in leaning toward fraudsters and instigators of sedition, political allies and sycophantic followers who he rewards for their fealty. The odds of getting a pardon without connections to Trump’s inner circle or a celebrity advocate or being infamous in a way that will benefit Trump are slim to none. Or if they aren’t someone useful to him, then they are someone he admires. Barbara Res, who worked for him for years, said “He respects people that break the law and get away with it”.
The pardon of the four Blackwater contractors who indiscriminately murdered Iraqi civilians including a small boy in the back seat of his parents’ car, has violated international law and has been condemned by the United Nations. But Trump doesn’t respect the U.N. Earlier pardons of court-martialed officers showed his disregard for the military justice system also. U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt made a public statement saying “It’s not surprising that a criminal like Trump pardons other criminals. Apparently to get a pardon, one has to be either a Republican, a convicted child murderer, or a turkey.” The only exception, actually deserving of the pardon, is the Thanksgiving turkey – a totally innocent being.
Our country’s founders had a purpose for giving the president this power in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, but they did arrange for limits on it. It was intended in their system of checks and balances as a check on the judiciary branch to correct any miscarriage of justice. There was a great debate among them and Alexander Hamilton had the foresight to say “the supposition of the connivance of the Chief Magistrate ought not to be entirely excluded”. George Mason reminded delegates that the president might not always be “of sound character and high intelligence,” rarely of the caliber of George Washington. James Madison thought they covered the possibility that “if a president be connected in any suspicious manner with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him. … This is a great security.”The founders didn’t anticipate Mitch McConnell and the Republican congressional flock of sheep. We saw how they trampled on Madison’s impeachment security wall. Obviously, they would now be quite horrified, and it is ironic that it is actually the Judiciary that has so far protected their precious system from Trump’s authoritarianism.
Losing the election has not stopped Trump. By continuing to make followers believe that his right to the White House throne has been stolen, while plotting his post-presidency continuation of power and possible 2024 comeback, he is creating a future of chaos, hatred, and violence where he will still govern his cult. In his mind he is building a court of unethical advisors and an army of mercenaries. Trump cannot psychologically process a loss. It creates so much cognitive dissonance in his egotistical brain, that he will go to any length to resolve it. If he didn’t win, then the system must be flawed and he will attack the very cornerstone of that system, the peaceful and orderly transition of power that George Washington himself instituted. He refuses to allow cooperation with the Biden team. He has hammered the courts with lawsuits, with no proof, trying to overturn the will of the people with no respect for the voters, even his own. He repeats the lies about the non-existent fraud and instigates demonstrations and violence.
He is turning to more radical crazy conspiracies and the pushers thereof- Rudy Guiliani, and recently pardoned Michael Flynn and Roger Stone in particular. They are sticking with Trump to the bitter end, advising martial law, which would be a coup, and mayhem in the streets. Having gone off the conspiracy deep end, Flynn believed Hillary was performing satanic rituals on children in the basement of a pizza shop and the insane idea that democrats are satanic pedophiles has become a Q-anon cult belief. And Stone, who has Nixon tattooed on his back, has been the Rasputin of the Republican dynasty for decades. He calls himself the “Dirty Trickster” whose aim it is to cause political havoc.
Trump is a controller. He understands how dictators think, he is like them. If he wants a coup, then you either support him or you are the enemy. He will retaliate and punish the American people for not reelecting him; not even his supporters are spared, many being among those financially hurting and losing loved ones to COVID. Callously delaying the signing of the relief bill, insensitively oblivious to the deaths of thousands every day while playing golf and making his list of further pardons in the days he has left.
Pardon me for saying so, but waving goodbye to the Trump presidency along with the horrible year in which it ends will be a relief – although we can expect more chaos and disruption from him before he eventually becomes an entry in the Who’s Who of infamous villains and traitors, the 21st century’s Benedict Arnold.
Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org