Jun 1, 2018 - Politics & Policy

It's not normal: Trump’s obstruction and pardon moves

We took a look at how Trump's obstruction stacks up

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

By any historical measure, it’s highly unusual for President Trump to repeatedly pressure his attorney general to intervene in an investigation of the White House, as Axios scooped late yesterday.

Why it matters: By any historical measure, it’s highly unusual to have a special prosecutor probing whether a president obstructed justice during his first days in office, like the Robert Mueller investigation is doing. By any historical measure, it’s highly unusual for a president this early in his term to pardon a controversial political donor (conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza) — and to signal he might pardon other celebrity criminals, like Trump did yesterday with Martha Stewart and more.

Be smart: Maybe these three events are mere coincidence. But almost no one around Trump, even his closest allies, thinks this is the case.

  • WashPost front pager, "With pardon, president sends a signal": "Trump ... delivered an indirect but unmistakable message to personal attorney Michael Cohen, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and others ensnared in Trump-related investigations that they, too, could be spared punishment."

Why Trump loves pardons:

  • Remember how on the campaign trail Trump would paint a picture of a click-your-fingers presidency?
  • As soon as he took office, he’d fix the healthcare system, remove the national debt by cutting waste, fraud and abuse — the list goes on.
  • The clemency power is one where Trump can click his fingers and get instant gratification. Better even than those executive orders, which have to face those pesky and inconvenient circuit court judges.

Pardon flurry ahead, per WashPost: "A senior White House official said that as many as a dozen other pardons are under consideration by Trump, adding that most are likely to happen."

Haphazard process .... "Trump’s pardon of D’Souza was his sixth act of clemency as president. Each was issued unilaterally, subverting the traditional Justice Department process of reviewing thousands of pardon requests," per WashPost.

  • "Most of the pardons are impulsive, according to a person familiar with the process, and are driven by his 'seeing something on TV, reading something in a newspaper, hearing from a friend or someone lobbying him personally.'"
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