In his dubious clemency, Donald Trump breaches yet another norm

In his dubious clemency, Donald Trump breaches yet another norm

Among the many forgiven are his campaign manager, Jared Kushner’s father and war criminals. Who is next?

WHEN AMERICA’S founders included in the constitution the power to “grant reprieves and pardons for crimes against the United States”, they sought to hand presidents a “benign prerogative” to show mercy to repentant law-breakers and “restore the tranquillity of the commonwealth”, as Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist 74; without such a tool, he fretted, “justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel”. Opponents worried that it would tilt the nation towards “vile and arbitrary aristocracy or monarchy”.

The anti-federalists, it seems, were right to be concerned. On December 22nd and 23rd President Donald Trump put his signature on nearly 50 eyebrow-raising pardons and commutations. The beneficiaries included his longtime confidant, Roger Stone; his campaign manager, Paul Manafort; and several others prosecuted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Others were Charles Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law who spent two years in prison for witness tampering and tax evasion; three former Republican members of Congress convicted of fraud and financial misdeeds; and military contractors responsible for killing unarmed civilians during the Iraq war. Removing these figures from the naughty list sets the 45th president apart from his predecessors. In the eyes of Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, the pardons are “rotten to the core”—and Mr Trump still has nearly a month to go in the White House.