As commander in chief, President Donald Trump can offer clemency to whomever he wants. Whether he can pardon himself, however, is an ongoing debate among constitutional and legal scholars.
Nevertheless, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz wants Trump to issue a torrent of presidential pardons – from himself to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Joe Exotic, the star of Tiger King – in order to satisfy non-existent “bloodlust” from Trump’s political opposition.
“President Trump should pardon Michael Flynn. He should pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He should pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe Exotic if he has to,” Gaetz said Tuesday night on The Ingraham Angle.
“You see from the radical left a bloodlust that will only be quenched if they come after the people who worked so hard to animate the Trump Administration with the policies and the vigor and the effectiveness that delivered for the American people,” said Gaetz.
Matt Gaetz: President Trump should pardon Michael Flynn. He should pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He should pardon everyone from himself to administration officials to Joe Exotic if he has to… pic.twitter.com/ArmRnvd2MU
— Acyn (@Acyn) November 25, 2020
Trump stuck with tradition on Tuesday by pardoning a turkey named Corn.
That same day, however, rumors emerged that Trump has been privately discussing a potential pardon for Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the connections Trump’s associates had to the plot.
Trump maintained that Mueller’s probe was a “witch hunt,” however, several members of his inner circle wound up in prison, including his former personal attorney Michael Cohen and individuals who worked on his 2016 campaign, such as Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
In short, there were an awful lot of witches.
During Flynn’s sentencing hearing in 2018, Judge Emmet Sullivan tore into the former lieutenant general, accusing him of treason in open court. “Arguably you sold your country out,” Sullivan said to Flynn.
While no direct evidence of treason was publicly presented by prosecutors, Flynn did receive a sweetheart deal, possibly in exchange for providing damaging information on Trump or other officials. But Flynn has remained fiercely loyal to Trump, and the mob-like structure of Trump’s orbit virtually ensures that those allegiances will be rewarded.
This is exactly what occured in July when Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, a Trump ally and veteran Republican political operative who was set to serve 40 months in prison after he was convicted of seven felonies.
In the case of Joe Exotic, who was convicted of murder-for-hire, killing five tigers, and thusly sentenced to 22 years in prison last April, Gaetz clearly expects Trump to do what he does best – troll the public.
When it comes to a self-pardon, however, the waters are much murkier. Trump faces a deluge of lawsuits the minute he leaves office in January. New York Attorney General Letitia James reportedly has 67 sealed indictments waiting to be dropped in Trump’s lap the moment his presidential immunity expires.
NY Attorney General Letitia James has 67 indictments on trump ready to be unsealed on January 21, 2021
— JetteNow (@jette2019) November 21, 2020
No president has ever attempted to pardon himself, and accepting a pardon requires an admission of guilt. But because presidential pardons cannot be applied to state crimes, self-clemency would not shield the president from prosecution in New York, for example, where he stands accused of tax fraud, money laundering, sexual assault, defamation of character, campaign finance violations, and other crimes relating to his personal finances and businesses practices.
The “bloodlust” Gaetz referenced, meanwhile, exists only in right-wing Trump supporter fantasy land. Certainly, liberals hope to see the president held accountable for his unprecedented corruption and criminality, but only if due process is followed.
Fifty-six days until the inauguration.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.