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[Opinion] Donald Trump Has No Intention Of Pardoning January 6th Defendants — Here’s The Evidence

[Opinion] Donald Trump Has No Intention Of Pardoning January 6th Defendants — Here’s The Evidence

https://twitter.com/AaronParnas/status/1487813073599668226

Donald Trump said at a rally Saturday night that if he’s elected in 2024, he will pardon all the defendants charged in the January 6th attack on Congress. There’s no good reason to believe him, and every reason to see this as merely a political ploy with little to no likelihood of follow-through.

CONROE, TX – JANUARY 29: Former President Donald Trump speaks during the ‘Save America’ rally at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds on January 29, 2022 in Conroe, Texas. Trump’s visit was his first Texas MAGA rally since 2019. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The first consideration is that, in the hypothetical timeline in which Trump does run and does win, by the time he takes office the majority of the defendants will likely already be freed from their sentences. In December, Forbes noted that a defendant had been hit with a five-year sentence — and that it was the longest one so far. Bear in mind, this was for a defendant seen on camera throwing objects, including a fire extinguisher, at police.

The piece also noted that around 200 out of around 700 defendants total had some level of assault on police in their charges. However, the defendant in question, Robert S. Palmer, was considered for a shorter sentence, closer to 4 years, and only extended because of his lying about the facts of the case.

Defendants being sentenced to time served, or to imprisonments of only a few years, can expect to already be free before the hypothetical second Trump presidency. Of course, he could still issue a pardon, but it wouldn’t cut their sentences any.

That leaves those charged with the more egregious crimes, such as those charged with assaults on police, and potentially the Oath Keepers who are facing seditious conspiracy charges.

They could still be imprisoned and hoping for a commutation of sentence and a pardon when Biden’s first term ends, and if Trump or another Republican took office, they’d certainly be able to carry out that promise — but why would they?

Trump has a history of dangling big promises and not carrying through. Some of his supporters expressed significant dismay after he was elected in 2016 and suddenly no longer interested in pursuing legal action against Hillary Clinton, who he had assured them would be the subject of investigation prosecution if he won. Of course, once he was in office, it no longer really mattered where she was — she wasn’t a threat to him politically.

In this case, once he’s in office for a second term, and can’t run again, it’s unlikely he’d see any real advantage in expending the effort to pardon whatever few would-be voters are still languishing in prison.

There’s another important factor too. If Trump actually wanted to pardon his supporters who attacked the Capitol Building and Congress on his behalf, he could have done so in the two weeks he remained in office after the attack. Some defendants actually expected that he would do so, and found themselves disappointed. Jacob Chansley, the self-proclaimed ‘q-anon shaman,’ even expected a pardon after the former president’s mythical ‘reinstatement’ to the presidency.

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In fact, according to an 1866 Supreme Court ruling, hosted here at Cornell Law School, Trump could likely have even pardoned those who hadn’t yet been charged:

“[Pardon power] may be exercised at any time after [the offence’s] commission, either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.”

And yet, he didn’t do so.

Attorney Aaron Parnas floated a different purpose for Trump’s Saturday night promise, though.

Trump still hasn’t formally announced another run for office, so while his promise could certainly be pandering for votes (and donations), his path forward isn’t yet settled, and he’s also facing a lot of other legal issues.

However, the January 6th Committee is focused on finding out which, if any, government operatives and officials, and Trump Administration members and allies, had roles in plotting the attack, and they’re currently pursuing the aforementioned Oath Keepers charged with conspiracy.

Parnas posits that Trump’s statement encourages anyone who might face charges and have any incriminating information to keep it to themselves, rather than using it for a plea deal.

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