Presidential pardons have become a hot-button topic for the Trump administration recently. The power to pardon has, and always will be, a topic of intrigue for pundits and politicos. After all, since the pardon is a “checking” tool given to the President by the authority of the Constitution, it is fertile grounds for controversy and debate. Historically, pardons and commutations have been somewhat political, and occur at federal and state levels of government. While pardon power is broadly defined, the only real limits are that they must be related to criminal matters, and that presidents can not pardon impeachments.
The Washington Post may choose to create a conspiratorial narrative out of the administration’s latest pardons (and rumored pardons), but it’s important to note that nothing President Trump is doing, or is rumored to be doing, is beyond his authority or even pardoning precedent. To fully understand the Trump strategy in the recent Dinesh D’Souza pardon and other rumored pardons – particularly those of Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich – it’s important to look at the shared principles that underlie these cases. The nexus that binds D’Souza, Stewart, and Blagojevich together is the extent to which prosecutorial discretion took certain offenses to an extreme. President Trump essentially laid out as much when he gave his justification for pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio – an unnecessary and wrong exhaustion of political capital in this writer’s opinion.