Jun 1, 2018

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

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.'"

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 1,363,365— Total deaths: 76,420 — Total recoveries: 292,425Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 368,533 — Total deaths: 11,008 — Total recoveries: 19,972Map.
  3. Trump administration latest: Peter Navarro warned White House colleagues in late January about the massive potential risks from the coronavirus.
  4. Public health update: Funeral homes are struggling to handle the pandemic.
  5. 2020 update: Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks the governor's attempt to delay in-person primary voting until June.
  6. Tech update: YouTube has removed thousands of COVID-19 videos for violating policies related to spreading medical misinformation.
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Stephanie Grisham out as White House press secretary

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is departing her post to return to the East Wing as First Lady Melania Trump's chief of staff, the White House announced Tuesday. The news was first reported by CNN.

Why it matters: Grisham will leave after nine months without ever having held a formal press briefing. Her departure follows the arrival of new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has a chance to overhaul a communications shop that's kept a low profile since President Trump ended the tradition of daily press secretary briefings.

WeWork board sues SoftBank

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

SoftBank was sued Tuesday morning by a special committee of WeWork's board of directors for alleged breaches of contract and fiduciary duty related to SoftBank's decision to cancel a $3 billion tender offer for WeWork shares.

Why it matters: SoftBank is viewed by many in the private markets as an unfaithful partner. If this reaches trial, that reputation could either become widely cemented or reversed.