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Any Attempts by Trump to Pardon His Way Out of Mueller’s Russia Investigation Is a Red Line and Will Move Americans to Action

March 28, 2018


Any Attempts by Trump to Pardon His Way Out of Mueller’s Russia Investigation Is a Red Line and Will Move Americans to Action

Raising Stakes
President Donald Trump’s administration should be doing everything in its power to preserve our democracy, the integrity of our elections and the special counsel’s investigation into the abuses of the 2016 cycle.

As the investigation gets closer to the truth, Trump has given every sign that he might cross one of the red lines first detailed by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) – firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or pardoning key witnesses. That last red line has received the least attention, but will trigger the same public wrath as straightforward firings. If Trump pardons people associated with the investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, the intention will be clear and may be a “test run for shutting down the Russia investigation.”

Mueller’s team already has indicted and accepted guilty pleas from former Trump policy aide George Papadopolous, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign aide and former administration employee Rick Gates and Californian Richard Pinedo for identity theft. Mueller’s team more recently indicted 13 Russian nationals with charges of “information warfare” carried out during the 2016 campaign.

The U.S. Constitution says: “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” While pro-democracy groups do not dispute his power to issue pardons, they object to doing so as a strategy to obstruct the special counsel’s investigation. As Mueller’s investigation inches closer to Trump himself, the president may feel tempted to pardon people with potentially incriminating information about him as a strategy to demonstrate that they have little to fear from federal prosecutors if they assist Trump in covering up potential wrongdoing.

These pardons would be different in kind from the politically motivated pardons other presidents have made historically because the intent would be to insulate Trump and his inner circle from accountability and to obstruct the special counsel’s investigation into the Trump/Russia scandal; pardoned witnesses and potential witnesses alike could be assured by such pardons that Mueller’s leverage to compel them to cooperate lacks strength. Trump, according to public opinion and democracy advocates nationwide, would be making a mistake that could imperil his presidency, in addition to causing a constitutional crisis that would send advocates to the streets in protest.

Pardons as a Real Possibility: As far back as July 2017 and only six months into his term, Trump inquired about his ability to use the executive office’s “complete power” to pardon. The fact that Trump was willing to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted for disobeying a federal judge’s order to stop racial profiling, and that he remains constantly bothered by the resultant media coverage of his campaign’s connections to Russian officials and the possibility that his family’s finances may be made public, makes pardons in the Russia investigation context a credible possibility.

Public Polling on Trump Pardons: Trump already has illustrated his willingness to abuse his presidential power to help his political allies, as in the above Arpaio example. In a national survey, six in 10 Americans said they felt it was “wrong” for Trump to pardon the sheriff.

Hundreds of Protests Involving Hundreds of Thousands: Anticipating that Trump may try to fire Mueller, groups have organized Americans nationwide to spring into action quickly. More than 230,000 people have signed up to participate in more than 800 peaceful protests in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., if Trump attempts to fire Mueller or impede Mueller’s criminal investigation into the Trump campaign and administration.

Read about other issues related to possible public reaction if Trump impedes the Mueller investigation TrumpIsNotAboveTheLaw.org.