If you can stand one more Trump outrage — and, trust me, this won’t be the last we hear about as Joe Biden tries to repair the damage done to democracy and presidential integrity over the last four years — consider Trump’s last-day pardons. They form a grotesque monument to the double standard that we acknowledge and detest in the American justice system. Given the power to grant clemency to those convicted of (or just charged with) federal crimes, Trump bestowed mercy on people with connections to his businesses or his associates in some way. A Washington Post analysis found that 45 of his 11th hour pardons — nearly a third of them — had a link to Trump or people in his orbit. “Some had their cases championed by Trump allies, while others had a relationship with his private company or a Trump family member, or donated money to back him politically,” The Post reports.
The list includes Steve Bannon, his former advisor and Jabba who was charged with swindling people who donated funds for Trump’s border wall. Imagine that: Trump pardons a guy who was ripping off people who supported the “big, beautiful wall” that Mexico was supposed to pay for.
The list of the pardoned includes the brazen crook and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and even the Republican U.S. Attorney in Michigan is outraged. Kilpatrick, he said, is a “notorious and unrepentant criminal.”
For me, the pardon that jumped off the page was this one: Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor in West Palm Beach, Fla., near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, who was sentenced in 2018 to 17 years in prison for stealing $73 million from Medicare by persuading elderly patients to undergo unnecessary procedures.
You can read the full Post report here. It should make you sick.
You can give Trump credit for granting relief to a drug dealer from Baltimore that my Sun colleague Justin Fenton reported on Wednesday. The man was serving a ridiculous amount of prison time because he was a three-time loser and his sentence was mandatory. Trump is not the first president to commute a sentence in cases like that. Nor is he the first president to grant pardons to the politically connected, as we know from the final days of the overrated Bill Clinton presidency. But Trump’s many white-collar pardons, starting with those of his associates just before Christmas, are in total a genuine abomination and, not surprisingly, he has sparked calls to reign in this aspect of presidential power. It’s all about judgement, isn’t it? Mercy should be bestowed on the deserving, not the despicable — on the contrite, not the connected.