Why Did Trump Pardon Dinesh D’Souza? To Send a Message to Michael Cohen

President Trump delivered an unexpected announcement via Twitter on May 31 when he announced that he would use his executive privilege to pardon Dinesh D’Souza. Readers may remember D’Souza, a semi-popular conservative talking head, who pled guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance laws. He was ultimately sentenced to eight months of supervised residency, followed by five years of probation.

Trump is also reportedly considering pardons for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart.

Explaining his reasoning behind these pardons, Trump claims that D’Souza was “treated very unfairly by our government” and that the sentences given to Blagojevich and Stewart were needlessly harsh.

While there are plenty of reasons to express concern over Trump’s apparent disregard for campaign finance law and its role in maintaining the integrity of American democracy, this sudden rush to hand out pardons has one very specific purpose. That is, it’s a not-so-subtle message from Trump to those feeling the heat from the FBI over collusion with the Russian government: I’ve got your back.

So while Trump’s opponents are eager to see Mueller’s investigation achieve a major break — namely, getting someone like former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to turn — such a day won’t come. That’s because even if federal prosecutors end up throwing the figurative book at the likes of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, Trump will be there to reward their loyalty with a full pardon.

In other words, the targets of the Mueller probe have absolutely no incentive to cooperate with the FBI.

The pardon as executive privilege has played a unique role in American politics. When it comes to presidential pardons, most readers likely recall the infamous pardon issued by President Gerald Ford which released Richard Nixon from facing any legal consequences over the Watergate scandal. However, this power has been used plenty of other times, such as when President Obama commuted the sentences of 330 non-violent drug offenders.

But is there any limit to this power? Does the rest of the government have no way to limit Trump’s pardons? Unfortunately, legal experts tend to believe that this is a gray area.

Perhaps the most important case to consider came in 1925: Ex Parte Grossman. This case took place during the Prohibition era, when the sale of alcohol was outlawed. After he was discovered to be operating a speakeasy, the defendant in this case was forbidden to continue selling spirits. When he ignored this order, he was arrested. President Coolidge granted Grossman a pardon, however this was overturned when — with the support of the attorney general — it was deemed that presidential pardon powers do not extend to contempt of court.

But that was nearly a century ago. It seems difficult to envision any scenario in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions — already on Trump’s bad side and whose days are likely numbered — held the president’s feet to the fire over pardons for people like Cohen or Manafort.

Of course, there’s always the nuclear option: impeachment. But as unlikely as it is that Sessions would wholly defect from the Trump camp, seeing Congress come together to indict the president appears even less likely. And even if it this did happen, Mike Pence would no doubt imitate Ford by choosing to pardon Trump, Cohen and anyone else convicted by Mueller or Congress.

While it might seem abundantly clear that firm checks need to be instituted with regard to presidential pardon powers, this too would require an unfathomable degree of cooperation on the Hill – and likely require a new constitutional amendment.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

52 comments

Leanne K
Leanne K4 months ago

Brian F why waste your time and ours. You arent convincing anyone

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 months ago

Trump using twitter is soooo bizarre and yet it suiits him well. A short snappy sentence, thats it. No information whatsoever, nothing that can be questioned or verified and he doesnt have to explain further nor be questioned. His little pronouncements have no substance.

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Susanne R Are you aware that MSNBC and CNN lied about the Iraq war, unfairly favored Hillary over Bernie Sanders, and lied about the Syrian war. Paid liars Rachel Maddow and Joy Reed on MSNBC make $30,000 a day, and will say anything to keep their jobs. MSNBC fired Ed Shultz and Donahue for telling the truth about Obama's support for the TPP, and the Iraq war. If you tell the truth on corporate owned MSNBC, and CNN, you will be terminated instantly. If corporate owned MSNBC and CNN is the news source you find more credible than RT, I can understand why you have such a lack of knowledge about issues, and keep repeating your very untruthful comments. Wall Street doesn't pay Hillary 22 million dollars for speeches, and expect nothing in return. Did you read the article in the link I provided in the Huffington Post about how dishonest it is for Hillary to accept $250,000 per speech. Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein don't take money for speeches, because thy are honest, unlike Hillary who is bought and paid for by Wall Street.
www.huffingtonpost.com/les-leopold/hillary-not...

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Susanne R
Susanne R4 months ago

Brian F: You stated in your post to me that " RT is more credible than MSNBC and CNN who lied about the Iraq war.... and the comments you post ad infinitum.

Are you aware of the fact that "RT is the first Russian 24/7 English language news channel which brings the Russian view on global news."? And that your new best friend, William Binney, is one of their contributors?

If that's the news source you find to be more credible than American news sources, I can understand why you keep repeating some very disturbing comments.

Did you "view" one of Secretary Clinton's speeches, which can be accessed through one of the links I provided? Seeing is believing.

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Rhoberta E Why are you here? Bernie Sanders would be our president if the Democrats didn't cheat him out of his primary and anoint a crook Hillary, and you're advancing this phony Russia investigation. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the country, and most people support his progressive policies like Medicare for all. If you cared about our country, you would support Bernie Sanders, stop defending corrupt Democrats, and stop advancing this phony Russia conspiracy theory. William Binney worked for the NSA for 30 years, and says the Russia conspiracy theory is untrue. I trust a person who worked for the NSA for 30 years, before I would trust a troll like you.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E4 months ago

brian f
trump and his kiddies were registered democrat but he really needed to sell his own brand of swamp water (probably bottled in China along with Ivanka's merchandise made in sweat shops for pennies on the dollar)
Why don't you whine about that?
OUTDATED BOT who ONLY knows how to blame the party and person YOU voted for. Blame. blame blame with absolutely NO suggestions for forward progress without trashing ALL.
AND you think you're always right and everyone else's sources are wrong.
Why are YOU here brian ??

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Susanne R Hillary also supports Republican pro AIPAC positions on Israel, and the USA giving the horrible regime 8 million dollars a day so it can oppress the Palestinians. Hillary is so corrupt, she is like a Republican.
https://www.democracynow.org/2016/3/24/glenn_greenwald_hillary_clinton_has_embraced

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Susanne R According to the Huffington Post, Bernie Sanders has implied that there are only two possible answers for Hillary refusing to release the transcripts: (a) the money wasn’t for the speeches themselves, but for the influence major institutional players on Wall Street thought that money could buy them if and when Clinton ran for President; or (b) the speeches laid out a defense of Wall Street greed so passionate and total that hearing it uttered by a person of power and influence was worth every penny. Wall Street doesn't pay Hillary 21 million dollars, and expect nothing in return. Hillary also supported world wide natural gas fracking, Monsanto, the TPP 45 times, and refused to support a $15.00 an hour minimum wage, marijuana legalization, and Medicare for all. Hillary is so corrupt Republicans voted for her.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/release-of-clintons-wall-street-speeches_b_9698632.html

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Brian F
Brian F4 months ago

Susanne R Politifact caught Hillary lying about Trump's tax returns. RT is more credible than MSNBC and CNN who lied about the Iraq war, unfairly favored Hillary over Bernie Sanders, lied about the Syrian war, and are pushing this phony Russia story. William Binney has immense credibility, certainly much more than the CIA, MSNBC, and CNN, who all lied about the Iraq war. The CIA has interfered in the elections of 80 countries, installed a brutal dictator the Shah in Iran so the USA could steal Iran's oil, and lied about the Iraq war. The CIA lies all the time, so how can you believe them about Russia?
www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/sep/27/...

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Winn A
Winn A4 months ago

tRUMPie belongs behind bars.

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